Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

When his gleeful celebration of himself awakens the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is quick to fell it in front of cheering crowds.  But after a dislodged bell lands on him, Puss is startled to learn he’s used up 8 of his 9 lives and The Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura) is coming for him with dual scythes.  Puss tries to retire in anonymity, but upon learning of a map that points to a wish hidden in the Dark Forest, he buckles his swash and sets out to secure it for himself in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”

Laura's Review: B

It has been a while since we’ve experienced the world of Shrek, but while the green ogre doesn’t appear here, other fairy tale characters join the race to procure the prize left by the Wishing Star with a story by “Puss in Boots’s” Tommy Wheeler and Tommy Swerdlow ("The Grinch”) that plays like a ‘choose your own adventure’ video game inspired by “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

After the musical opening featuring the cocksure Puss we know and love, we suddenly find a gato knocked down a few pegs by a Doctor (Anthony Mendez) who reminds him of all the lives he treated carelessly, the counting down of Puss’s prior deaths a comedic highlight.  After a run in with The Big Bad Wolf, a red-eyed beast in a black hooded cloak who suggests something grim (Grimm?) and to whom he loses his sword, Puss buries the remains of his identity and erects a giant ‘P’ over the grave.  He arrives at local cat lady Mama Luna’s (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) where he is renamed Pickles and hopes to be left alone (a cover of The Doors ‘The End’ plays on the soundtrack), but attracts the attention of a miniature mutt disguised with a felt cat hat whom he dubs Perro ('What We Do in the Shadows'' Harvey Guillén).  But Puss’s disguise proves short-lived when the Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears crime family discover his ruse and soon they are all vying for the map rumored to be held by Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney).  Puss will be the most surprised to see who’s beaten them to the punch – his old rival and romantic interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).

Directors Joel Crawford ("The Croods: A New Age") and Januel Mercado largely lean on the type of CGI we’re accustomed to in Shrek world, mixing things up a bit with animated maps which change depending on whose hand or paw rests upon it that appear hand drawn and a more stylized, angular look for Puss when he faces off with the Wolf.  While the story leans on such clichés as families built by circumstance (Goldilocks learns that life with Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman) and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo) is ‘just right’ after all, for example), its mixture of Western concepts with fairy tale characters lends many chuckles.  Horner, an odious looking creature and bully of a bakery shop owner, enlists his ‘Bakers’ Dozen,’ a motley crew bearing twelve different weapons, but also hosts Ethical Bug, a cricket in a top hat who sounds like Jimmy Stewart and is aghast by the conscience he attempts to guide.  There are references to Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz and Puss’s infamous cute eyes are given an amusing upgrade when Perrito, as he comes to be known, pops a blood vessel when he finally succeeds in making them.

And it is Perrito who is the scene stealer here, the upbeat oddball with the heartbreaking history a serious game changer for the franchise.  After eleven years, we can hear the aging in Banderas’s voice, Puss even given a long white beard for the film’s midsection, but there’s life in this old cat yet and the filmmakers land on just the right note to pivot into a new adventure.

Robin's Review: B

Puss (Antonio Banderas) has lived as a swashbuckling adventurer always willing to put his life on the line for good, and sometimes not so good, reasons. But this comes at a cost and our feline hero has used up eight of his nine lives. The Grim Reaper, in the guise of the Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura), is coming for the cat in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”

When we meet our feline hero, he is vanquishing yet another foe. Then, he sees he is being pursued by a very large wolf with not very nice intentions. This begins Puss’s story of his fall from legend and descent into the realm of “lap cat.” While living his new, docile life in the home of uber cat owner Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), he meets a small dog, Perro (Harvey Guillen), disguised as a cat.

Things are not exactly exciting in his new home and there is no adventure. That changes when Goldi (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bear Crime family – Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Mama Bear (Olivia Coleman) and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo) - come looking for Puss to collect the sizable bounty on his head.

Unintentionally, they let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, when they reveal a map to the Wishing Star that grants a single wish. Puss’s new mission is to find the star and make the wish that will get his lost lives back. But, everyone else, including Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney), wants the wish for themselves and for their own selfish reasons.

Enter Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), Puss’s old squeeze who he left at the altar – he thinks. But, she also wants the map for her own reasons. So, now, Puss, Kitty, Big Jack, Goldi and the Bear syndicate all want the precious map. There is one problem: depending on the viewer, the map will show a different path to the Wishing Star. All are bad and very dangerous, except for Perro, whom Kitty affectionately names Perrito.

The players in this game all want the wish for selfish reasons so you can guess that good will triumph over bad and a good heart is the best thing ever. There is a lot of mashing up of fairy tales and that keeps the viewer busy in an amusing way.

Universal releases "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" in theaters on 12/21/22.