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Puss In Boots

October 29, 2011
Puss In Boots

At long last, the Shrek gravy train has shuddered to a final(?) halt.  Now it’s time for the spinoffs, starting with Puss In Boots.  We pick up with the Zorro-inspired supporting character’s own story, along with — naturally — a few other fairy tale characters for good measure.  But where Mike Meyers was more or less a straight comedian who made the original Shrek as an engaging but straightforward other-side-of-the-story exercise, Antonio Banderas and Puss have always had a strong action-hero streak.  And so Puss In Boots is a fun action comedy with a freshness long lacking from its parent property.

We find ourselves in a small coastal town in what could be either Spain or Mexico.  I’d say Spain, but outside of town we find badlands and deserts like in the American southwest; I figure it’s neither, really.  Puss (Banderas) is an outlaw, but with a good heart.  He refuses to steal from churches or orphans, but other than that he’s willing to do what he has to in order to get his next meal.

Puss once searched for three magic beans, but gave them up as pure legend years ago.  His attention is caught by circulating rumors that the beans not only exist, they’re in the possession of the ruthless Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris).  But when Puss attempts to steal the beans, he is thwarted by the interference of a mysterious cat in black.  One dance fight later, the interloper is revealed as the infamous Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), who is working with Puss’ childhood friend and sworn enemy, Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis).

Of course, we all know that three magic beans mean a beanstalk to the clouds and a giant’s castle in the sky; Humpty means to steal the fabulous treasures inside — their particulars seem to be the biggest rationale for picking him as a character to fill this role, since otherwise there’s little to connect him to the nursery rhyme — and use them to repay his and Puss’ debts to their hometown and have enough left over to be set for life.  Of course, it’s not quite so simple as that.

I watched this one in 2D and it was just spectacular.  There are a lot of places where the intent to use 3D is obvious, and since this is all computer-generated it’s not likely to suffer much.  I’m pretty sure that IMAX is overkill, though.  When you’ve got a decent, albeit sometimes corny, story and some great action you don’t need to resort to gimmickry.  But that’s the way of the world, isn’t it?

No review of Puss In Boots can be complete without mentioning Henry Jackman’s superb score, replete with traditional instrumentation inspired by Manuel de Falla y Matheu.  The contributions by Rodrigo y Gabriela — I think they’re in the two dance scenes — are excellent; the choreography animated over top of the music is just the icing on the cake.

All in all, we have an excellent animated action movie that should keep kids and adults alike entertained.  Now all we have to worry about is that the producers will try to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Again.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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