I recently viewed a film that renewed my appreciation for the solace of mortality and the paramount importance of companionship. Would you believe me if I told you this film was a “Shrek” saga spin-off?
You should. Cinephiles and bimbos alike (both of which I consider myself) have highlighted “Shrek” as an evergreen art piece. Its successors are ranked among the most well-done sequels to come from a triumphant original. The recent hit “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is no exception.
This film first came to my attention upon the legendary Miss Flo herself, Florence Pugh, posting a promotion for “The Last Wish” on her Instagram. Pugh voices a scrappy teenage Goldilocks, accompanied by Mama Bear (Olivia Colman), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo). This assemblage seeks Puss so he can help them attain the wishing star.
Puss (Antonio Banderas) experiences character growth like we’ve never seen. The film commences with a vain, theatrical performance of him belting out a song with the lyrics “Who is your favorite fearless he-e-ro?” repeated several times to the cheers of adoring fans. After another prevailing victory against an adversary, Puss dies. It is revealed that this is his eighth time dying, meaning he is on his ninth and final cat life. The sequence of past demises is both comedic and artistic, however, genuine fear creeps into Puss’s life upon realizing his impermanence.
A bounty hunter in the form of a dark, ominous wolf with scarlet eyes (Wagner Moura) seeks to take Puss down. Puss flees for perhaps the first time in his life. The wolf whistles a chilling melody in an ominous trudge behind Puss for the duration of the film.
The animation of the film’s action sequences and some of the fear-inducing exchanges between the big bad wolf and Puss are uniquely reminiscent of a comic book. The dimensions and texture of the characters shift, and a more claymation style of movement takes place. Movie Web shares that Mark Edwards, the VFX supervisor for the film, stated, “the goal was to create a visually appealing and dynamic sequence.” I believe this was successfully accomplished with masterful animation, from elegant battle movements to thousands of strands of Puss’s fur standing on end upon hearing the wolf’s refrain.
“The Last Wish” received a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 96% and an audience score of 93%. “Avatar: The Way of Water” received 77% from critics and 92% from audience members. This critical disparity has received some public attention due to the fact that “Avatar” took 13 years to produce. Beyond that, a “Puss in Boots” film is an easy animated feature to juxtapose with “Avatar,” a film franchise known for having somewhat of a pretentious, passionate fanbase. However, “The Last Wish” is no vapid feature. These scores do not surprise me.
This masterpiece’s heart and humor lies in Perrito (Harvey Guillen), a small dog and a persistent friend to Puss, despite the latter’s best efforts. The resistance Puss initially has to Perrito is exceptionally similar to the relationship between Shrek and Donkey. Unsurprisingly, Perrito’s fervor for life and friendship are revealed to be his greatest strengths, as well as examples his selfish costars are meant to learn from.
My personal favorite character is the ethical cricket, voiced ingeniously by Kevin McCann. Evil Jack Horner (John Mulaney) sifts through his bag of stolen magic items, hoping this insect will act as a powerful weapon in his time of crisis. Oh contraire, Pie Boy. The cricket perches on Jack’s shoulder and adds the perfect splash of humor to an otherwise horrific villain arch. The cricket himself undergoes an ethical crisis as he witnesses Jack’s atrocities and realizes there might not be good in everyone after all.
Another highlight of “The Last Wish” was the pause the film patiently took to portray Puss having a genuine panic attack as he hid from his looming stalker. Perrito sees his friend in disarray and gently rests his head on Puss’s stomach, causing Puss’s breathing to slow and composure to return to him. My eyes pooled as I witnessed silent comfort in crisis via the presence of a loved one.
At the risk of spoiling this treasure, I will tell you that Puss sets aside his fear and faces the wolf that is revealed to be Death head-on, passing up a wish for nine more lives in favor of savoring the life he has been given with his beloved Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Perrito. This causes Death to walk away and gives him peace in this life.
So was Puss in Boots a fearless hero at the start of the film and a wuss at the end? Wuss in Boots, if you will? Quite the contrary. Puss learned of the futility of life without loved ones. Being a fearless hero isn’t about defying odds and defeating monsters. It’s about the friends we make along the way. Puss was no longer afraid to love, and that is the most fearless and most heroic attribute of all.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is now showing in theaters.
By Risa Bolash