Despite variable visuals and some strange narrative choices, DreamWorks’ Shrek spin-off still manages to raise a smile or two – but its accompanying short is far more fun to watch, says Fernando Caire.
I was never a huge fan of the Shrek films, but I will admit that Puss In Boots was my favorite thing about Shrek 2, probably the best of the series. DreamWorks Animation apparently felt the same way, since it went on to release a spin-off movie filling in the character’s back story. So does everyone’s favorite feline do his starring role justice, or does the entire thing belong in the litter box?
The movie begins with Puss (Antonio Banderas) on the hunt for the mythical magic beans that will lead to the giant’s castle and wealth beyond his wildest dreams. The only things standing between him and fortune are the notorious villains Jack and Jill – and another thief named Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) has her eyes on the beans as well.
After Kitty foils his attempt at stealing the beans, Puss pursues her, only to discover that an old ‘friend’ has hired her to get his attention. The acquaintance in question is none other than Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), last seen framing him for the theft of their home town’s gold supply. Reunions out of the way, Puss embarks on an adventure not only to become filthy rich but also to clear his name – that is, if he can trust his former friend and his new feline companion.
The voice acting is well done, and Banderas and Hayek are as distinctive as ever, but Galifianakis seems misused – if I hadn’t seen the credits, I wouldn’t even have guessed he was in the movie – while Hayek seems in danger of becoming typecast in these seductive sidekick roles.
The plot gets pretty convoluted, but to its credit – the ending aside – never becomes predictable. Jack and Jill as a large and dangerous couple who raise wild boars is a good joke; and Humpty Dumpty being an inventor was at least unexpected. Unfortunately, the film as a whole makes some questionable and downright odd narrative choices. DreamWorks also really needs to break away from its compulsion to include a dance number in every movie it makes: another reason why How to Train your Dragon is its best production so far.
Though the animation is superb, the visuals are kind of inconsistent. Sometimes a scene will look gorgeous, at others, there is a noticeable drop in quality. When a scene looks good, it looks really good, though, thanks to the 1080p quality afforded by the Blu-ray release.
A number of extra features are provided, including an inside look to the making of the film, some mini-games, deleted scenes, a feature on the voice casting, and also a short called The Three Diablos.
These special features leave much to be desired and a lot of the deleted scenes are in storyboard format. As an artist, I found them fascinating, but I doubt the average parent will feel the same way. A more informative look into the animation process would have been nice as well.
But at least The Three Diablos is entertaining as Puss meets his match against three seemingly harmless kittens who manage the wreck havoc on a kingdom. In fact, I wish DreamWorks had gone with this plot for the feature film itself.
The final verdict
As spin-off films go, Puss in Boots is fairly well done: just don’t expect it to hold up to the franchise that spawned it. It’s more of a kids’ movie than it is one for all ages, so your children will probably love it. If you’re a Shrek fan over the age of 12, it’s still worth a look, despite the unevenness of the plot and visuals – although it will probably have you longing for the original.
Puss in Boots is out now on Blu-ray in North America and worldwide in March.