Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): Puss in Boots back in action

Animation feature film “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”, which is the sequel to “Puss in Boots” (2011), has a fair amount of fun and charm to justify its rather redundant existence. While its irreverent fairy tale world, which is borrowed from “Shrek” (2001) and the following several sequels, has not been so fresh or original during last two decades, the film diligently provides a series of funny and entertaining moments as expected, and that is enough for me for now.

The story, which begins at quite several years after the ending of the previous film, quickly establishes how things have become quite different for our furry outlaw hero. While he has enjoyed a considerable amount of fame and notoriety during these several years, Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) comes to face the undeniable fact that he has the only one life left after dying no less than eight times, and, what do you know, he is soon approached by a certain ominous figure eager to give him, uh, the eternal peace. Understandably quite terrified, our furry hero quickly runs away from his fearsome opponent, and he eventually lets himself adopted by an old lady who already lots of other cats in her house.

For some time, the situation does not look that bad for our furry hero once he gets accustomed to the mundane (and mindless) daily life of a pet cat, but, of course, there eventually comes an opportunity for adventure he cannot possibly resist. It turns out that Goldilocks (voiced by Florence Pugh) and her trio of bears are looking for his little criminal service, and their ultimate goal, a big star hidden somewhere inside a dangerous magic forest, may get our furry hero to have extra lives. Naturally, he quickly embarks on acquiring the magic map which will lead him to that big star, and he also happens to be accompanied with Perrito (voiced by Harvey Guillén), a little happy-go-lucky dog who has disguised himself as a cat for his practical survival.

Of course, things soon turn out to be a bit more complicated than our furry hero expected at first. It seems that all he will have to do is stealing the map from one certain greedy industrial figure, but this loathsome figure also wants to locate that star for his megalomaniac ambition. In addition, our furry hero also comes across Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek Pinault), another outlaw cat who was once very close to him and is also quite willing to get the map by any means necessary for her little personal purpose.

While reluctantly working together for their common goal, Puss in Boots and Kitty Softpaws find themselves rekindling those old romantic feelings between them, though neither of them can easily admit that they are still attracted to each other despite all those years of separation between them. At least, Perrito is always willing to soften the mood between his two feline companions, and that makes both of them a bit more willing to open themselves to each other, though the map and that big star remain a big issue between them.

As cheerfully rolling these three and several other characters from one point to another, director Joel Crawford and his crew serve us several good action sequences packed with enough wit and style to be appreciated. These sequences often look rough via their deliberate cell animation style, but this interesting stylistic choice brings some extra energy and spirit to the screen, and we remain engaged and excited even when lots of things happen here and there across the screen.

The screenplay by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow, which is based on the story written by Swerdlow and his co-writer Tom Wheeler, allows occasional character development in the meantime. While our furry hero’s conflict with the growing possibility of his death brings enough gravitas to the story, there is some poignancy in the respective simple wishes of his two accidental companions, and we are also touched a bit when Goldilocks, who actually cares about her bear family more than she admits, makes an important choice for her alternative family later in the story.

Above all, the voice cast members of the film have lots of fun as imbuing their characters with a substantial amount of life and personality. While he has been considerably matured during last several years as shown from his moving Oscar-nominated turn in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory” (2019), Antonio Banderas still can be very funny as recently shown from Gastón Duprat and Mariano Cohn’s “Official Competition” (2021), and his delightful voice performance perfectly captures his character’s irrepressible bravado as before. Besides Salma Hayek Pinault and Harvey Guillén, both of whom hold each own spot well around Banderas, Florence Pugh, Ray Winston, Olivia Colman, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph are well-cast in their respective supporting parts, and Moura is particularly effective as our furry hero’s fearsome opponent.

In conclusion, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a predictable but enjoyable product, and it will certainly appeal to both cat and dog lovers for good reasons. To be frank with you, I did not expect much when I came into the screening room during last evening, but I found myself chuckling from time to time, and I was also often amused by how actively two young audiences behind me responded to the film. Yes, I could recommend them several better recent animation films such as “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” (2022), but we had enough fun anyway, and I can only hope that they will soon go for better stuffs out there.

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