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Puss in Boots 3D (2011)

November 8, 2011

written by: Tom Wheeler, David H. Steinberg & Brian Lynch
produced by: Latifa Ouaou & Joe M. Aguilar
directed by: Chris Miller
rating: PG (for some adventure action and mild rude humor)
runtime: 90 min.
U.S. release date: October 28, 2011
If you didn’t really care for any of the “Shrek” movies, than “Puss in Boots” might be the movie for you. That statement may not seem right, seeing as how the sword-wielding cat was first seen in the fractured fairy tale world of “Shrek 2”, but I’m speaking from experience. I wasn’t really crazy about any of those movies and was even unimpressed by the introduction of Puss in Boots in that first sequel, so I bowed out of the last two sequels. I hear I didn’t miss much. Therefore, my approach to this Dreamworks spin-off was quite fresh, and despite my lack of anticipation I found myself pleasantly entertained by this frisky kitty flick. 

The swashbuckling tale told here takes place before Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) met Shrek, supposedly. The cat we see here is a rogue outlaw and a charmer with the ladies (he calls female cats “women” which is sort of odd), who seems to be a magnet for trouble. What cat isn’t, right? While out walking the earth, Puss encounters Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), a former friend from back in the days when he was a hero in their hometown of San Ricardo, protecting the innocent. Humpty, a crafty inventor and habitual schemer, coerces Puss into joining him with the help of clever thief,  Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), as they attempt to steal the coveted magic beans. The fabled frijoles are the gateway to a legendary giant gold egg-laying goose, but they are currently in the possession of  Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) a married redneck couple. Despite the mistrust Puss has toward his former “bad-egg” friend. he embarks on a rollicking adventure that unknowingly becomes the cat’s change at redemption.


The movie has some lively laughs, but what director Chris Miller (“Shrek the Third”) is emphasizing here  is fun over funny, delivering a rollicking action and adventure. Considering the nature of the character, this makes sense. It also helps to separate it from the slapstick silliness that the “Shrek” series is known for. Distancing the movie even more from that series is a lack of all the annoying pop culture references, except for one outdated “Fight Club” reference. Providing a slightly different atmospheric tone is a good way to make a spin-off that can land on its own four paws. While one can see how these characters came from the world of Shrek, no one will miss the green ogre or any of his supporting friends.
The best part of the movie is how the script gives these anthropomorphic cats the chance to embrace being a cat. Sure, Puss struts around in his titular boots and his poofy hat, but as soon as he sees a dancing beam of light, he is desperate to chase, just like any cat would. In another scene, Puss can be seen lapping a glass of milk at a surly tavern (lifted from Bandera’s “Desperado”), which delivers some fun comic timing. You don’t even have to be a “cat person” to appreciate how Banderas and Hayek (always great together) are depicted as cats, and there’s even a nice jab at crazy cat people. Well done. 

As for Humpty Dumpty, who has as much screen time as Puss, well I was expecting a little more from Galifianakis. I always enjoy the actor, who’s become one of those guys who cracks me up just by looking at him, and since we can’t see him here, maybe that’s why he’s not as funny as I anticipated. Then again, the many times I heard him yelp like a frightened schoolgirl had me giggling. Maybe Galifianakis was restricted to the script and wasn’t allowed enough improv time, still the visuals alone of his character make up for what the actor lacks. The animators do a fine job whipping up an egg with arms and legs for the big-screen, especially when we see him in a sparkling gold lucha libre outfit. 


The flow of the story gets somewhat derailed by overlong flashback sequences and pointless exposition, but the art direction more than makes up for that. Like “Kung Fu Panda 2” earlier this year, Dreamworks Animation delivers another feature with imaginative action scenes and some fun character beats. The story in “Puss in Boots” may not be as good as “Kung Fu Panda 2”, but at least the use of 3D is just as good here, which is further proof that the medium is best in animation. 

“Puss in Boots” exceeded my low expectations, something quite rare and an experience I will always welcome. Even if you were never a fan of the “Shrek” series (like me) or were let down by how it played out, there’s certainly enough here to provide a good time at the movies. 

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