Puss In Boots Review: A Comedic Computer-Generated Cat Caper in 3D
When I first heard that DreamWorks was planning a movie spin-off to their Shrek franchise that featured Puss in Boots as the main character, I was somewhat skeptical. After all, Shrek was scraping the bottom of the barrel of fairy tale satire by the end of its four-movie run, so I couldn't imagine that there'd be much left for a stand-alone Puss in Boots movie. Thankfully, I was proven wrong: Puss in Boots is a fun, goofy adventure that's fit for audiences of all ages.
Puss in Boots follows the adventures of its titular character (voiced by Antonio Banderas) as he partners with mastermind Humpty "Alexander" Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and feline thief extraordinaire Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) for a big score: the fabled golden egg-laying goose from a particular giant-dwelling castle in the clouds.
Puss in Boots isn't as cheeky as the Shrek movies, and that ultimately works in its favor. Instead of saturating the script with pop culture references and taking repeated jabs at Disney's interpretations of classic fairy tales--and at Disney itself--Puss in Boots milks most of its humor from the inherent absurdity of fairy tales, action-adventure movies, anthropomorphized animals and eggs, and its own warped interpretations of fairy tale characters. (The versions of Jack and Jill that appear in this movie have to be seen to be believed.) Overall, the movie looks and feels like a Sergio Leone-esque Spaghetti Western set in an off-kilter fairy tale world and it works wonderfully. Hayao Miyazaki fans will also find themselves having brief flashbacks to Castle in the Sky, particularly during the unexpectedly touching resolution to one of the key character's narrative arcs.
The voice acting is solid across the board, but a lion's share of the film's charm lies with Banderas' portrayal of Puss. Banderas clearly has a blast playing this character, and I envy the production team that got to watch him record his lines.
Of course, adding considerably to my viewing pleasure was how I saw Puss in Boots--in IMAX 3D. I have yet to see a feature-length CGI cartoon in 3D that has disappointed me in its visual quality but Puss in Boots in particular makes ample use of the 3D format, which adds an extra crispness to its many wide-angle vista shots of the desert, its action scenes, and its multi-layered city landscapes.