PUSS IN BOOTS
***1/2 (out of 5)
October 28, 2011
Antonio Banderas as PUSS IN BOOTS
Salma Hayek as KITTY SOFTPAWS
Zach Galifianakis as HUMPTY DUMPTY
Billy Bob Thornton as JACK
Amy Sedaris as JILL
Directed by: Chris Miller
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Revisiting the “Shrek” series is like looking back on your relationship with a girl who was totally hot and fun in high school but has lost her looks and grown fat and tired. What was once new and fresh, with plenty of energy and full of free-spiritedness, is now sour and unattractive. The third film represents that old girlfriend at the lowest of her low, where she skipped out on hygiene and let herself go. The fourth film is what she might be after she dropped some weight and gotten her energy back, but she’s still got lines on her face and has a bit of a body odor problem.
With this comparison in mind, “Puss in Boots” is like discovering said girlfriend’s younger sister who wasn’t as hot as she was in high school but handled the test of time better. It’s a leaner film with less warts. It’s not a perfect film, and it really doesn’t hold a candle to the halcyon days of youth, but it’s a nice roll in the catnip nonetheless.
The story follows Puss (Antonio Banderas) in the years before he ever met “Shrek.” He finds himself at odds with a wily thief known as Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), but then he discovers they have a mutual friend: his adoptive brother Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). The three unlikely friends team up to steal some magic beans from the dastardly duo of Jack and Jill, hoping to get their hands on the mythical goose that lays the golden eggs.
I’ll admit that this synopsis looks like it’s a retread of the same old fractured fairy tale puns that ground the “Shrek” films into the dirt, but that’s just the premise. The details of the film send up a whole different genre. Instead of hammering home another cast of pigs, blind mice and gingerbread men, “Puss in Boots” knocks off the spaghetti western. Like “Rango” (though significantly lower in overall quality than that excellent film), “Puss in Boots” offers a fun take on the animated genre.
The animation looks fantastic, moving away from the uncanny valley where the “Shrek” movies lived. It helps that the main characters are cats and eggs, but even the humans in this film look less creepy than we’ve seen before.
Banderas does a fine job as the voice of the hero, keeping an air of dignity while dancing around body humor. Salma Hayek and Zach Galifianakis are fun too, though they don’t particularly stand out. Like a good animated film, though, the stars aren’t the actual voices but the characters on screen. There’s plenty of cool action sequences and beautiful animation of the western desert.
There are some awkward moments in the film, like a bizarre dance off that comes out of nowhere (didn’t we leave that behind with Ben Stiller movies half a decade ago?) and some disjointed flashbacks. But considering it’s a relatively short film with neat 3D and plenty of jokes for the kids and the parents to both enjoy, I can forgive this.
“Puss in Boots” isn’t as good as the better slate of films from DreamWorks (like “Kung Fu Panda” and its sequel), but it’s not as bad as the worst of the bunch either (like the painful “Shark Tale”). Oddly enough, the best thing I can say about “Puss in Boots” is that it’s not just another crappy “Shrek” sequel. It actually does something different, which makes it surprisingly fun.