Review: ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

(Illustration by Cole Bertelsen | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: The online version of this article is an extended version of the print article.

After over a decade, Dreamworks is revisiting the beloved characters from the Shrek films with a sequel to the 2011 movie “Puss in Boots.” The wait was worth it, because the story of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is surprisingly solid.

You don’t have to be a big fan of Puss in Boots or be familiar with all of his past appearances to enjoy this movie. Some characters from the first movie are carried over, but the storyline works just fine with no prior knowledge. 

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” very quickly establishes what kind of character Puss in Boots is, and where he stands in the world. Antonio Banderas, who also played Zorro — a clear inspiration for the character of Puss in Boots — does an impressive job of bringing passion and expressiveness to the cat in this movie. In his first few scenes, it is established in an entertaining manner that Puss is loved by many, fearless and at the top of his game. 

He’s “never been touched by a blade” and feels unstoppable. However, this is turned on its head after Puss loses his eighth of nine lives. Right on cue, the wolf appears, voiced well by Wagner Moura. He seems to be a bounty hunter dead set on bringing an end to Puss’ adventures, and he’s more than powerful enough to do it. 

Puss, the undefeatable hero that has never been touched by a blade, is now beaten, running for his life and scared to his core. For the first time, Puss has to confront the fear of death and faces someone very capable of killing him. Puss never valued his nine lives and that’s what put him in this situation, in more ways than one. He literally laughed in the face of death. He had always valued himself for his risk-taking attitude and doesn’t consider himself to be the legendary Puss in Boots without spare lives. 

With themes of running from death, confronting fear and appreciating things that are right in front of you, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a serious yet humorous story approachable by audiences of all ages. Viewers see Puss struggle and pushed toward growth. Puss’ story is much deeper and more meaningful here than in past appearances, and the movie is better for it. 

The additional antagonists Goldilocks, voiced by Florence Pugh, and Jack Horner, voiced by comedian John Mulaney, bring serious conflict and hilarious moments. Horner stands out as possibly the most entertaining character, with many jokes centered around how ridiculously evil he is. 

Some very serious scenes balance out the comedy nicely; Puss is terrified whenever he sees the wolf, and has genuine fear for his life. This movie even contains one of the most realistic depictions of a panic attack in recent memory. Emotional moments like these are made convincing through the talent of the actors and animators. Puss’ interactions with supporting protagonists Kitty Softpaws, voiced by Salma Hayek, and the dog Perrito, voiced by Harvey Guillen, are particularly heartwarming. 

Viewers may notice more Spanish culture incorporated in this movie compared to its predecessor. Most of the characters have lines in Spanish sprinkled throughout the movie, and Perrito, who has no official name for most of the story, is named after the Spanish word for puppy, as it’s what his friends have called him the whole movie.  

Wholesome character moments aside, the animation quality in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is staggering. If viewers were to go back and watch the first “Puss in Boots” or the Shrek movies, it’d be noticeable how far the technology has come. 

This movie has a unique artistic style. Often 2D visuals overlap the 3D animation, such as with speed lines or shock waves, to emphasize movement and action. Sometimes action scenes are animated “on twos,” which is when characters move every two frames rather than the norm of individual frames. The same style was used to a larger extent in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and makes action feel faster paced and abrupt. The animators even nailed the animal characters’ body language, as although cats don’t often run around on two legs swinging swords, details like flattening ears and hair standing up seem remarkably accurate to reality. 

Technical aspects aside, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is visually stunning. The beautiful colors and detailed scenery and characters make every shot look like a painting. The characters are noticeably expressive in this movie, and viewers can always tell what Puss is thinking by the look on his face. Additionally, a shocking number of small details are hidden throughout the movie, many of which can’t be fully appreciated until reveals toward the end of the movie, adding more reasons to come back for a second viewing. 

This is a story worthy of praise. At a runtime of 1 hour and 40 minutes, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is an engaging and quick story, and those that have yet to see it should go watch it while it’s still in theaters.