Just when we thought Dreamworks wasn't going to bother with the Shrek franchise anymore, they decide to make a new Puss in Boots movie! Of all the side characters in the Shrek films, Puss is one that displayed an interesting backstory and became popular enough to spark its own spin-off movie back in 2011, then a TV show on Netflix, and another interactive TV show as well!
But Puss isn't done even if Antonio Banderas might be. There are still stories to be told, and of all the impactful stories we have witnessed in the Shrek franchise, this one has my heart.
My love for movies and stories in general is no secret. For my birthday, I was gifted a beautiful projector and this movie was actually one of the first that has graced my bare walls. I was so pleasantly surprised, and on every level, this movie was a win.
Dreamworks has featured a new style of animation that I certainly didn't believe would ever happen in the Shrek series. I'm sure the switch has made die-hard fans purse their lips and say, "Why doesn't it look the same?" But upon watching the movement of this animation which references more of a comic style, with dynamic coloring, a play on perspective especially during action scenes, and the immense level of detail, it is clear to see that this movie was a work of art.
I hope large companies like Dreamworks continue to take these new risks with animation, even though it would mean disappointing some fans who are used to the original animation found in their beloved franchises.
The Fantasy World
We love Shrek for its immense sense of humor built in a modern world where all of our favorite characters from all fairytales are real and exist. This includes many unique characters distinct from fairytales like Lord Farquad. Shrek had an immersive world from the start, with its own magic system, political system, cultures, rules, and beliefs, which makes a perfectly constructed fantasy world.
What I appreciate is that this movie recognizes the Shrek franchise including all the movies that have come before. We do witness snippets of Puss's relationship with Shrek and Donkey, plus familiar characters make a cameo appearance in the backstories of some side characters, like Pinocchio. Though this might not be deemed too important, this is something I truly appreciate because this attention to detail creates consistency, and this movie would not exist unless the ones that have come before were created. Paying homage to the works of art created prior not only enhances how real the world may feel for the audience but also respects why the audience is watching to begin with.
Proof of why this is important:
Those who know me know I love Spongebob. I was a die-hard fan of the show even after the changes we have seen since creator, Stephen Hillenburg's tragic passing. I assumed the creators were moving in the right direction in keeping Bikini Bottom alive when they created the incredible Broadway show, which I watched and loved so much! But the vulgar changes after Spongebob's 21st birthday turned into creating strange spinoffs like "The Patrick Star Show" and "Kamp Koral".
I am not speaking out against the change of animation, as we know, Stephen Hillenburg always played around with animation. Think back to the realistic hand or fish newscaster that we see in the early episodes of the show. Or The Christmas Episode of 2012, and the Halloween episode of 2017. Or the times Spongebob went to shore and his appearance changed to an ordinary sponge. I love all the changes in animation, even the adjustment to the vibrance of color that we see as the show progresses over time. I do not love the increase in violence and the character's faces morphing grotesquely or the disappearance of the amazing plot each episode once had. All this is reflected in the show's decline of success.
However, my complaint here is that in these spinoff shows, the audience is expected to forget the origin of Spongebob and adopt new origins. Sandy and Spongebob did not meet until they were adults, meanwhile in "Kamp Koral" they meet as children. Mr. Krabs and Plankton are older than Spongebob and have their own well-written backstory, unlike in "Kamp Koral", where they are all the same age. Likewise the nonsensical writing of 'The Patrick Star Show" makes Patrick more of an airhead than he actually is, exaggerating his personality the same way Cat Valentine and London Tipton were exaggerated in later seasons of their respective shows.
This is to me, an example of ruining a world-wide beloved show as the creators did not respect the original pieces that captured the audience to begin with! Not to mention, it truly broke my heart to see all of Stephen Hillenburg's hard work come undone so quickly after his passing. Thus the 14.8 billion dollar franchise was no more!
Now back to Puss in Boots!
Of the many magical objects we experience in fantasy books, movies, and tv shows, the map that leads to the wishing star in this film truly got my attention for so many reasons.
Upon a character's mere touch, the map recreates itself, and the landscape of the forbidden forest with it. The recreation of the map and the scape are fully dependent on the heart of the character. Passing these creative landmarks is but a test to overcome your faults, fears, and limiting beliefs. So it is no surprise that Perrito's map is a test of true kindness, and the Bear's map showcased their home, which was a staple of how much their family meant to them, as well as a test for Goldy to see if she'd continue to take her family for granted.
The best fantasies feature all aspects of life including a well-developed fantasy world. This list includes character development, action and adventure, romance, humor, and well-written plot.
This story checked all the marks.
The modern-day humor of the Shrek franchise has yet to die! The jokes are actually funny, appropriate, and can be understood by children.
Introducing Three Villains
Many people are averse to there being too many characters in a book, tv show, or movie as it leads to them losing interest. However, there were three villains in this one movie alone, all with their own agendas and backstories, and relationships with one another. For a story that is truly complex, this script had no issues making it as appealing, engaging, and as easily understood as possible.
Goldy and The Three Bears: What a wonderful twist on their original story. In this version, the gang is a criminal family with Goldy as the head of operations. As a daughter and sister to the bears, we do see this dynamic, though, at times, she is quite bossy. Her adoptive parents and baby brother follow her lead no questions asked, and we learn throughout the film that they do this because they truly love her.
Jack Horner: I've actually never heard the nursery rhyme of Jack Horner until the movie. I appreciate the creators for digging deep and fleshing out a character realistic enough to live in the modern fairytale world of Shrek. His character design is quite unpleasant, giving him the appearance of a classic villain. His thumb is perpetually stained purple from sticking it inside pies, and his goal is to absorb all the magic in the world. Jack Horner has known Goldy and the Bears, Kitty Softpaws, and Puss in Boots long before the movie has commenced, creating a relationship with everyone that sets the stage for the coming adventure.
From the start, we see how cruel he is upon looking at his magical collections. Of them a wall filled with the horns of baby unicorns. Not just any unicorns... Baby unicorns.
I love how Jack Horner is paired with Jiminy Cricket who tries to test Jack's better judgment and humanity but ends up getting squashed time and time again in doing so. I find this to be very realistic, not everyone will allow their conscience to be their guide.
Death: Death was the star of the show. The mystery and the intrigue to find out who and what this character truly is was so deliciously written. In the beginning, we take on Puss's assumption that this strange wolf is a bounty hunter. We do not know why he has the ability to appear and disappear, or has glowing red eyes, or why it uses shotels to fight. Death's motive behind ending Puss's last life was to put a stop to Puss for taking all his lives for granted, plus it appears that Death very much disliked Puss's arrogance.
Accents and Culture
I truly enjoyed the incorporation of Mexican culture. Death, Puss, Kitty, and Perrito feature Mexican accents while they speak, adding realism and culture to the world. However, Jack Horner features an American accent, also entirely plausible. While Goldy and her bear family don't just have any English accents, but outdated Cockney accents. All the same, the diversity in culture represented in the film was refreshing!
The Shrek franchise has a way of making the unordinary main character lovable, starting with our beloved ogre. It is no different with Puss, as he is a thief of course!
Every main character needs a sidekick! The sidekick should be the one you can count on, the one who compliments your personality, your polar opposite that challenges the main character's beliefs. Your sidekick, main character combination should make people feel like they are an unlikely pair!
Perrito is all that for Puss. Not to mention his name literally translates to dog, not unlike Donkey. He is the fluff whereas Puss is the hard shell. He is innocent, while Puss is a romantic. He is sweet and compassionate whereas Puss comes out cold and uncaring. He not only challenges Puss to open up his heart but also calms him when he is deeply afraid. Plus there is no more of an ironic pair than a sophisticated cat and a happy-go-lucky dog. By my standards, he is just what the doctor ordered, a perfectly created character for our Puss in Boots!
Kitty Soft Paws
Every lead needs a romance, and these two already have an established backstory adding more to the drama. Puss has left Kitty at the alter, though she knows Puss was only truly in love with himself and therefore cannot be in a committed relationship. Their humorous dynamic, Mexican culture, and adventure reminded me of the Legend of Zorro. Reuniting after seeking the same treasure, Puss, and Kitty have to rehash their past, forcing her to stick around to witness his acts of change and eventually forgive him. Likewise, her presence in the film forces Puss to stop running from his past, live up to his mistakes, make amends, and start over new.
You can say for certain that all characters, part Jack Horner who refused to change his ways, experience character development.
As we know, Puss once was a bounty hunter and continues to work as a world-renowned thief, though his moral limits include not stealing from churches or orphanages. No one said he is puuurfect, but his character makes him redeemable. We love his charisma and his charm, and we notice that beneath all that fluff, Puss is actually a good purrrrson. Haha, I couldn't resist.
The symbolism behind Puss's nine lives was beautiful. As he follows the enchanted map he meets each of his nine lives, all depicting a particular phase of his long life. Of them are the gambler, the dancer, the singer, the glutton, the buff, the guitar player, the drunk, the narcissist, and his most recent life: the legend. As we can see, throughout the accumulation of lives, Puss has only lived for earthly pleasures, featuring his love for himself as well as his evident charisma.
His journey of facing his fear of death was truly enjoyable. During this adventure, Puss comes to terms with what life is truly about and why it is worth living.
There is a lot at play in this movie. Many characters, and many agendas. Yet the plot was beautifully written and easy to understand. The highly inventive world features an enchanted map that tests the characters while inevitably leading them to their potential wish was a wholesome display. Beautiful themes like making mistakes, learning from them, and the power of forgiveness permeate the narrative, making this plot worthy of humanity's attention.
As Goldy says, "It's just right!"
What did you think of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish? Did it inspire you? How? Let me know in the comments below.
JK Noble | Author | Artist | Philanthropist
Published author of the new YA Fantasy Series, HALE.
Creator of the LMB franchise and the Encourage Literacy Foundation.