Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a surprise hit from Dreamworks, and a sequel to the 2011 Shrek spinoff. The film is directed by Joel Crawford and stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, and John Mulaney.
The film is beautifully animated, heartwarming, and action packed. The animation style is clearly inspired by that of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but it is unique in that it is stylized to resemble storybooks rather than comic booka. The background art in each scene is stunning. They are designed to evoke a painterly style, with bold colors and visible brushstrokes. The character designs are also fun and dynamic – particularly the attention to individual strands of hair/fur that stand out from the otherwise flatter colors. I was particularly drawn to the designs for Goldilocks and the Three Bears. At this point in the story, the Bears had already accepted Goldie as the fourth member of their crime family, with their stolen knick-knacks and baubles adorning their hair, ears, heads, and weapons.
Speaking of the crime family, though they were supporting characters, their storyline was simply but fully fleshed out, as were the storylines for the primary and other supporting characters. The plot is simple: Puss, being a cat, is on his last of his nine lives and he seeks the magical wishing star to wish to regain the eight that have passed. He and the other characters are all racing to reach the star first, and the treacherous terrain protecting the star changes to trouble whichever character is holding the sole map at the time. This is potentially where the film could fall into becoming repetitive, however the engaging and upbeat pacing is aided by the fact the obstacles depicted are all relevant to each characters’ arc. The film does not repeat beats by putting various characters through similar obstacles as there is a single changing terrain rather than showing different paths for each character.
Another notable aspect of the film is the depiction of death as a character who stalks Puss as he journeys towards the star and announces his presence either by suddenly materializing, stepping out of the shadows with his glowing red eyes, or whistling an ominous tune. His role in the film is also simple but not unnecessary or corny – he seeks Puss’ last life as he has been reckless with his previous eight, and taunts him for only being careful now that he is done to his final one. His character keeps the plot moving without being redundant, causing ripple effects for the other supporting characters.
Ultimately, this film is deserving of its Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Film, and it was a delight to return to the iconic Shrek universe. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is playing at the Cinemark Ann Arbor 20, and I hope that it will come to the Michigan or State Theater to celebrate its accolades.