From his glorious introduction to the world via 2004’s Shrek 2, Puss In Boots has been the kind of man of action that just screams, “Make a movie out of me!” Well, the screaming is over, because the long-discussed Puss In Boots origin story has now come to theaters, with an all-star voice cast to boot.
Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) is the most-wanted thief and outlaw in all the land, but he’s also got a heart of gold when he’s not stealing gold. However, there’s one prize that has eluded him for half of his life: magic beans. Not just any magic beans, Jack and the Beanstalk’s magic beans that’ll grow a beanstalk to a castle full of golden treasures.
As it turns out, those magic beans aren’t legend, but fact. The only problem is, they’re in the clammy clutches of Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), a devious pair of married outlaws who guard the beans constantly. Puss tracks them down, but before he can make off with the beans, he’s distracted by someone else who wants the beans, a fellow cat-burglar named Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).
Puss and Kitty have a common acquaintance, one Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianikis), and they’re all going to need to work together if they’re going to get the beans, get the treasure from the giant’s castle, avoid a Jack and Jill-related shooting, and escape The Terror that guards the treasure.
When looking at the collective output of DreamWorks animation, there’s one thing you can say for them. They know action. Pixar knows emotion, pathos, story-telling. DreamWorks, by and large, knows spectacle, and Puss In Boots is definitely a spectacle. I saw it in 3D, and for once, the 3D actually added to the movie, rather than detracted from it.
Yes, it made the colors a little darker, but it made the movie’s camera movements much more impressive. Puss and Kitty whirl and swashbuckle their way through many gorgeous scenes. The various races and chases pop, with the 3D adding a nice pulse-quickening dimension to the death-defying feats.
Director Chris Miller (Shrek The Third) and company have created some gorgeous tableaus, and they use the third dimension in a way that most live-action directors cannot. Much like How To Train Your Dragon made flying feel like flying, Puss In Boots makes rooftop parkour into what I can only imagine real parkour would be like (minus the risk of death).
To his credit, Miller has crafted a movie that looks and feels like a Western that just happens to star fairy tale characters, with some great film trickery stolen straight from the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone.
Still, when you make a comparison between DreamWorks and Pixar, there’s always the negative. For DreamWorks, it’s the scripts. It’s not that Puss In Boots has a bad script, but it’s long on action and short on comedy that isn’t cat behavior jokes. It’s a whole lot better than the most recent crop of Shrek movies, but it’s not on the level of Kung Fu Panda (which worked both as an action movie and as a parable for kids).
Puss In Boots isn’t comfort food, it is candy. Yes, there are lessons there, but the morality – like the comedy – is a bit thin.
Despite that, the acting is top notch. Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas have great chemistry. Even when you can’t see them, and they’re probably nowhere near one another during filming, they play off of each other well. It was evident in Desperado, and it’s evident here in Puss In Boots. Weird, I know, but it’s there. Obviously, the two relish their roles, and they put a great amount of energy into their performance. Ditto Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.
Considering the audience, I imagine Puss In Boots is going to be a hit with the kids. I imagine he’s a very popular character, and odds are the youngsters are going to enjoy this flick. As for the adults, it won’t be deep or thought-provoking, but it will be fun, even if only as eye candy.