PUSS IN BOOTS (Dir. Chris Miller, 2011)
After what’s been a pretty unremarkable year for animated kids movies, one in which even the mighty Pixar faltered with the lackluster CARS 2, it‘s a pleasant surprise to find that DreamWorks delivers a worthwhile romp with PUSS IN BOOTS. And since it’s a prequel spin-off of the SHREK series, that’s saying a lot.
Antonio Banderas, in full Spanish swashbuckler mode, voices the fearless furry outlaw hero in this lively adventure that’s part Western, and part fairy-tale pastiche.
Puss teams up with Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to steal the goose that lays golden eggs from a castle in the clouds. They have to contend with the murderous thieves Jack and Jill (wonderfully voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) who have discovered an ancient power that could destroy the world.
We follow Puss and his cohorts through a sprightly series of sword fights, chases and near escapes at dizzying heights, all handled with great gusto.
I particularly liked a saloon-set “dance fight” scene between Puss and Kitty Softpaws with its kinetic display of fancy footwork and saucy wit.
Thankfully, unlike SHREK and its sequels, there is a minimum of modern pop culture references – lines like “the first rule of Bean Club is that you do not talk about Bean Club” are sparse.
The film is more concerned with cat-centric humor. Puss can easily be distracted by a laser pointer like dot of light darting around, and the way he laps up milk from a shot glass won’t just make fans of felines laugh.
Banderas infuses Puss with vigor which makes it sound like he means it when he declares “My thirst for adventure will never be quenched!” He’s perfectly matched with the sultry Hayek.
Galifianakis gives an energetic voicing to Humpty Dumpty, but it isn’t a very distinctive character. A number of current comics like David Cross or Patton Oswalt could’ve done the part with very little difference.
That’s a tiny quibble for PUSS IN BOOTS is a fast paced and funny good time. The only other complaint is the obligatory 3D presentation that every CGI-ed family film seems to be outfitted with these days.
I took my brother’s kids to see the movie at the local IMAX theater (at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh) and they oohed and aahed at the in-your-face visuals…for about 5 minutes. After that, they told me later, they were annoyed by the once again unnecessary embellishment.
The 3D didn’t do much to enhance the experience for me either. So save your money. The exquisite terrain that this kitty tackles – a well designed world that has a more appealing take on Spaghetti Western aesthetics than RANGO – will shine just as bright (or brighter) in 2D.