Puss In Boots

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Laura Clifford 
Puss In Boots

Robin Clifford 

In days of yore, a small kitten arrived on the steps of the San Ricardo orphanage where it was loved by its adoptive mother and the best friend he grew up with, Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis, "The Hangover"). But the friendship had a fork in the road when Humpty tricked the cat into participating in a robbery. Years later, that same cat is attempting some thievery of his own when an unanticipated masked rival disrupts the plans of "Puss In Boots."

Laura:
It's hard to recall how delightful "Shrek" was back before the life was drained out of it, but "Puss In Boots" partially regains the magic.  It's a delightful spinoff, a weird amalgamation of the Mother Goose stories of 17th century writer Charles Perrault concocted by Brian Lynch ("Hop"), Will Davies ("How to Train Your Dragon") and screenwriter Tom Wheeler (TV's 'The Cape'), that respects the needs of its older audience while entertaining the young 'uns.

The film's inventiveness is evident from the start when Puss (Antonio Banderas, "The Skin I Live In") has his back story told via the tattoos of barroom patrons.  Puss still pulls out his 'big sad kitty eyes' when they're useful, but he has a lot more to offer in his own movie - much of the film's humor is derived from the temporary abandonment of Puss's In Boots character to typical feline behavior - like chasing a moving point of light or lapping his 'leche.'  Adult humor abounds beginning with the appearance of Kitty Softpaws (Banderas's "Desperado" costar, Salma Hayek), a whirling dervish in one of the most popular designs in Mexican wrestling masks, that of a cat.  When the two face off for a dance fight in the Litter Box, they literally knock boots!  The sequence is a standout, music building as cats grab various 'instruments,' much like the fight scene in "Kung Fu Panda 2."

Puss is searching for the magic beans, currently in the possession of the brutal Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), that will allow him to grow a beanstalk to reach the goose that lays the golden eggs to repay the hometown he inadvertently stole from years before.  What a surprise when Humpty reenters his life courtesy of Kitty, seemingly contrite, to reteam on the dream.

The film ultimately can't quite sustain its hilarity, giving way to plot mechanics but upping the adventure ante in the process.  The movie has a look that is distinct from "Shrek's" Far Far Away without being disassociated from it and the 3D version includes some better than average effects, like a horizon which barrels forward at eye level that almost induces vertigo or the trips up and down a beanstalk which ascends into the heavens.  The gosling of gold is both cute and outlandish, its wall-eyed look like something that escaped from a Hayao Miyazaki animation.

Banderas is a perfect puss and has chemistry to spare with Hayek, his costar of five former films.  Galifianakis's vocals are a weird complement to Humpty's bizarre characterization which looks like food from one of those drive-in concession commercials via the royal court of Spain.  Producer Guillermo del Toro voices the Commandante of San Ricardo who chases Puss the robber and honors Puss the hero.  Story artist Bob Persichetti scores big laughs as the Ohhh Cat.

Director Chris Miller ("Shrek the Third") has launched this spin off with wit and authority. If there is to be a solid future in this franchise, though, the filmmakers need to pull back on the over the top third acts and keep the comedy consistent.

B+

Robin:
Robin did not see this film.
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