Imagine spending over a decade making Avatar 2, only for a new movie about Shrek’s sidekick to swoop in and get a higher Rotten Tomatoes score. The explosive success of Puss In Boots: The Last Wish has become something of a meme in and of itself, with the animated movie even getting a nod as part of the Oscars 2023 nominations — but for the most part, the hype is very well-deserved.
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish continues the Shrek Cinematic Universe’s tradition of subverting fairytale tropes nursery rhymes, and reimagining them innovatively for young audiences. The plot for this film, which includes Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek returning as Puss In Boots and Kitty Softpaws respectively, borrows from the ‘Star Light, Star Bright’ nursery rhyme to construct a tale about the last remaining ‘wishing’ star.
Conscious that he is on his last life, Puss sets out to find the star in order to get his nine lives back as he is stalked by the malevolent Death, which takes the form of a terrifying wolf. Tackling an issue like death and mortality is something even the most avante-garde, sophisticated drama movies shy away from, but this family movie is the most compelling portrayal of it I’ve ever seen. It engages those brooding, philosophical feelings about life and death that all of us — adult or child — can relate to, in a surprisingly mature and nuanced way.
It could’ve taken the easy way out like a lot of superhero movies and animated series do: making the characters ageless, or constructing some kind of convoluted excuse for their immortality. But they don’t, and that really works in the film’s favour. In a movie where magic is around every corner, the relatability of Puss and his anxiety around mortality is what grounds it, and is one of the reasons that it can be considered not just a ‘good’ movie, but a great one.
Surrounding Puss is also an incredibly strong and compelling supporting cast. Kitty Softpaws is the perfect foil for our titular tabby’s self-imposed arrogance, while Perro the puppy fills the ‘annoying best friend’ vacuum while actually not being annoying at all. He’s just consistently optimistic and kind to the point where it arouses suspicion, which helps teach an important lesson to both children and adults alike about kindness, desire, and letting go of cynicism even in the worst of circumstances.
We also have Goldilocks, the Three Bears, and Little Jack Horner involved in the 2023 movie’s B-plot, with the Bears led by a fearless Florence Pugh as Goldie bringing a refreshing spin to their nursery rhyme by synthesizing a Peaky Blinders-like set-up with a heartwarming story about family. Little Jack Horner had a few funny moments, but for the most part, the villain was a little one-dimensional, paled in comparison to Death, and seemed to fall all too easily into the concerning ‘fat people are greedy’ Bad Guy trope.
But the best thing about this film is easily its dynamic animation style. Instead of going for your run-of-the-mill 3D job, the movie bursts with colour and personality by utilizing 2.5D animation techniques. In doing so, the film follows the trend established by Netflix series Arcane and Spider-Man movie Into the Spider-Verse, but they certainly put their own stamp on the style.
Given the fairytale roots of the film, this animation technique really helps to visually amplify the mystical setting, making you feel as if you’ve just fallen into a painting or picture book. This animation style is also hugely effective as a storytelling tool, as it helps to visualise feelings, plot points, and themes without relying too heavily on exposition.
Once the movie gets going (it has a bit of a slow start), the dialogue, hidden adult jokes, and general humour of the film are, for the most part, very quick-witted and cohesively written. As a whole, the franchise has learned a lot from its decade hiatus as it no longer tries to be the Shrek movies, and instead has come into its own.
And in doing so, and finding its own identity, it’s no stretch to say that Puss In Boots 2 is probably up there with the first two Shrek movies, and I can see it standing the test of time and becoming as beloved by all ages in the same way we love the OG ogre.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is available to watch in cinemas from February 3, 2023. If you like the sound of this, check out our guides to the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2 release date or the Shrek 5 release date.
Puss in Boots 2 review
Stylistically sound and a little profound.