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‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ is Dreamworks at their best

When once in a blue moon a movie catches your eye and gets you excited, there is no better way to experience it than in the movie theater! While most people tend to reserve this kind of emotion for larger movies such as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” I run counter to that culture. I zig when everyone else zags and this was seen best last weekend because the movie which came to be my big screen debut for 2023 was none other than “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”

Laugh all you want at the fact that I deliberately chose to watch, bring my friends to and MAYBE teared up twice during a children’s movie, but it was amazing! Now I will do my best to not include spoilers, but in case they slip out you cannot say that I did not warn you in the beginning of this article. To watch this movie there is no need to have watched the first Puss in Boots movie but a very generic understanding of Puss in Boots lore as a Shrek character is needed. 

To begin artistically, the movie was done in a similar style to “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” in that it is comic animation. The movie appears to be out of a comic book which provides far more texture and focus to the motions characters take in certain moments. For instance, the swinging of swords or the energy from a punch is so much more impressive under this art style as the full force and speed can be seen in the animation. Even small details such as the fur on Puss’ (Antonio Banderas) body or the hair of Goldi (Florence Pugh) (part of Goldilocks and the Three Bears) becomes far more textured with color layers rather than animated layers of hair strands.

However, a movie is so much more than the visuals on screen (despite their amazing job—which is odd for Dreamworks but good for them, keep it up). The movie begins with none other than Dreamworks’ new intro sequence which at first was a punch to the gut. Not that the Dreamworks’ intro was bad; it just simply included all of their famous movies from the past such as “Kung Fu Panda” and “How to Train Your Dragon” which made me feel like a relic sitting in the theater. 

But the movie begins immediately with fun action as we see Puss has commandeered a governor’s mansion and has begun to throw an absolute rager for all the townspeople inside. In what I can only describe as the craziest non-linear series of events, Puss ends up fighting the governor’s men when he arrives home to find the rager. Yet, somehow the rager was so loud that it woke up a rock giant which ended up destroying the mansion and now Puss has to defeat the giant, a feat he is able to accomplish all while keeping his iconic suave disposition.

It is a weird start but certainly sets the tone for the movie as it is clear it will be action-packed and a straightforward demonstration of Dreamworks’ new animation power. From here the true plot begins when we find out that Puss, being a cat, has wasted eight of his nine lives in a montage of very funny deaths. Out of a mortal fear that his last life will be taken from him and that he will be unable to live up to the legend, Puss begins to live a somewhat monastic life with a cat lady in the mountains. He loses his fearless identity as he slowly becomes one of the hundreds of mindless cats living in this lady’s home where he eats kibble, uses a litter box and sleeps all the time.

That is, at least, until the bounty hunter crew of Goldi and the three bears come crashing in through the walls to find Puss and collect his ransom. Puss is able to escape but overhears the funniest bounty hunter crew discussing a magical star in the woods which can grant one wish—a wish Puss now wants to use to get back all of his nine lives so can resume his usual life and continue to be the legend.

The trek to find the star becomes a real race as fairy tale characters from all over enter the rush to get the wish. Puss and his crew are racing against Goldi and hers, and the now-grown-up “big” Jack Horner and his crew of workers. Keep in mind, Jack Horner is played by John Mulaney and while I love John Mulaney he has no vocal range whatsoever. It is abundantly clear that it is John Mulaney simply reading a script and not even trying to alter his voice a little, but I suppose that is the price we must pay to him employed.

But the focal point of the movie for me and my greatest takeaway from the movie was the villain in the film. Easily the best villain Dreamworks has ever dropped, Puss is being followed throughout the movie by a wolf—Death (Wagner Moura). This interpretation of Death was by far the best, as it was not frightening or something a child could not understand but rather a very powerful and realistic characterization of the famous spirit. Death is able to strike fear with his peircing eyes and incredible strength, something which the animation style helps greatly by giving better lighting effects to his blades as they drag across the floor or the fire which comes from the swinging of his blades. Death is not inherently a character who is scary in his physical appearance, but through his actions and demeanor even I experienced moments of fear with his commanding voice and sheer power. 

Dreamworks did not need to so casually drop the best movie of 2023 disguised as a children’s movie. They also certainly did not need to drop the best movie villain of all time but now with its Oscar nomination you can bet your bottom dollar I will be seeing this movie in theaters again!

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