Monday, April 3, 2023

Wish I May, Wish I Might

Film: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Format: Streaming video from Peacock at the office.

We’ve been doing some remodeling, and that’s put us in a situation with needing to have workers in the house while we deal with yapping dogs while trying to have meetings. Because of that, we’ve rented some temporary office space, and my wife and I take turns going there with the dogs. It was my day today, and while I sat at my laptop, I figured it was as good a time as any to knock out an Oscar film. There are only a couple streaming for free at the moment, so Puss in Boots: The Last Wish it is.

Puss in Boots is a character in the sort of extended Shrek-o-verse, having appeared in the second movie. A successful spin-off yields a sequel, and the universe of the film is rich enough and the character interesting enough to support a new story. This time, we open with Puss (Antonio Banderas) partying with a town to the chagrin of the governor. Eventually, this leads to a protracted battle with a giant that results in an accident that should kill him, but he appears to be fine.

That opinion is short-lived, though. It turns out that Puss actually did die in that battle, and it was the eighth time he has died, meaning that he’s down to his last life. That night, he encounters a wolf bounty hunter (Wagner Moura) who very nearly kills him. This close brush with his final death, causes Puss to retire, which he does in a cat rescue house run by Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who does not realize that he is talking cat (or his actual identity) and renames him Pickles.

It is here that the movie turns. Puss meets a dog he will call Perrito (Harvey Guillen), who has been surviving by disguising himself as a cat. Eventually, the house is attacked by Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, and Samson Kayo), who want to hire Puss to steal a map that leads to a wishing star that contains a single wish. Realizing that the wish could restore his lost lives, Puss makes a play to steal it himself. Of course, to do so, he will have to contend with former love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and criminal who owns the map to the wish, Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney).

The Dreamworks animated films, especially in the Shrek family of films, has always been pretty strong, and this is a nice addition to the family. One of the real benefits of the film is the strength of the characterization. This is clearly a film for kids and so a lot of it is relatively predictable, but there’s a lot here that manages to feel at least a bit fresh. And, while it is predictable, these are classic tropes that the story uses well. We know we’re going to get a satisfying resolution to everything, because the film has been very careful to set us up to expct that that’s what we’ll get.

It's also really funny. Again, there are some telegraphed jokes here, but there are a few that are genuinely funny. In a roasting battle against Goldilocks and the bears, for instance, Perrito goes into a profanity-fueled list of insults that contains more bleeps than words, and it’s certainly a shock, but in a good way.

Perrito is one of the parts of the film that I’m not as pleased with as I would like. I have two chihuahua mixes and I love me some little dogs, but it’s very hard to see Perrito as anything other than a canine version of Olaf from the Frozen. There’s also a strange issue with the animation. In the more action-oriented sequences, the film’s animation is hard to describe, but is probably best thought of as looking like frames of animation have been dropped. It’s jittery in a way that is difficult to describe.

That said, there’s a lot to enjoy here. There are some good jokes, and the characters are genuinely the best part of the film. Yes, the story leads to an inevitable climax and there are lessons learned all around by our main characters. We expect that in an animated film that is targeted at kids. But these are lessons that are worth learning, and these are characters worth listening to as they teach them. It’s pitched the right way, just off kilter enough to be recognizable to an audience in terms of what is being alluded to, and irreverent enough to call back to Shrek.

Why to watch Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: It’s how kids’ entertainment should be done.
Why not to watch: The animation is strange in places and feels inconsistent.


  1. I've heard great things about this film as I heard it was better than it had every right to be as it confronts the idea of death.

    1. I expected to enjoy this, but it was better than I thought it would be.

  2. My son LOVED this and I was just "meh" on it like I am with the entire Shrek franchise. It was never something I felt deeply about.

    1. That's fair. I enjoyed Shrek, but I'm not sure I love the fallout of "somewhat grittier" fairy tale versions that followed it.