Sunday, November 06, 2011

Movie Review: "Puss in Boots"

If ever there was a character from the "Shrek" franchise that begged for his own film it was Puss in Boots. Voiced by Antonio Banderas and often caught with his foot in the air while he awkwardly groomed himself, Puss had a clumsy, swashbuckling charm that was tailor-made for a movie that appeals to children and adults alike. The only question was whether a film that comes on the tail end of a four-movie series about a green ogre could offer anything original.

Before Puss was known by his proper name he grew up in an orphanage with his best friend Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifanakis). Humpty has always had an obsession with finding the magic beans that will grow another beanstalk to the castle in the sky that is home to the golden goose. Swearing an oath as blood brothers, Puss and Humpty do everything together from dreaming about the magic beans to getting into a lot of mischief. But Humpty and Puss begin to drift apart when Humpty begins to turn to thievery while Puss says he will not steal from the town in which he was raised. The final falling out comes when Humpty tricks Puss into a major robbery that makes Puss, a onetime hero, into an outlaw.

Years pass and Puss, who refers to himself as "a humble gato looking for his next meal," hears a rumor about the magic beans that says they're in the hands of the criminal duo of Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris). Acting on the information Puss tries to steal the beans only to run into another cat trying to do the same thing. Puss and the mysterious cat end up at a cat cantina and engage in a furious flamenco inspired dance-fight that hilariously incorporates moves like the 'litter box' and a butt-scootch that every pet owner will recognize. As the fight escalates Puss knocks the mask off his nemesis and it is revealed that she is a very attractive kitty by the name of Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek). It turns out that Kitty Soft Paws is working for Humpty Dumpty and soon Puss is persuaded to team up and help Humpty with the promise that the golden eggs will be used to repay the money stolen from his hometown and clear his name.

"Puss in Boots" is quite different in atmosphere from "Shrek," though not inventive enough to feel like something new. It doesn't pay homage to the original series but, like its predecessor, incorporates well known fairy tales into the story in a fun and slightly demented way. The main strength of the film is the fact that Puss is such a well established main character and Banderas gives the character real heart. Galifanakis also deserves kudos as Humpty Dumpty as the personality he gives the character overcomes a slightly creepy aspect to his appearance.

It's become a fairly common trend for animated films to take well known fables and tweak them to fit a comedic script and "Puss in Boots" is no different. The interweaving of fairy tales like "Jack and Jill," "Humpty Dumpty" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" works very well and it's very funny to watch scenes in which the thuggish Jack and Jill discuss the merits of parenthood. But the gags that take center stage are, as always, the ones in which Puss acts like a regular cat rather than the suave hero. "Puss and Boots" follows the tried-and-true formula of colorful animation, lots of action and humor and a 90 minute running time to keep the audience entertained without wearing out its welcome. There's nothing here that you feel like you haven't seen before but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and overall the movie is very charming and clever. "Puss in Boots" follows a well known template, but does it well.

4 out of 5 stars.

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