“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a wish come true


Flickr/Claire Schuppel

Brain Keim gives his thoughts on the surprising 2023 hit “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”

Brian Keim, The Carroll News

In the 22 years since the first “Shrek” film, to say the franchise has taken a few turns would be an understatement. From the great “Shrek 2” to the disappointing “Shrek the Third” to the outright bizarre “Shrek the Halls,” this series is not without its ups and downs. However, the new “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,”  centered around the beloved titular character,  aims to bring its own spin on the franchise with returning characters and new elements. Did this new spin work out for the franchise’s benefit? Well, at the risk of spoiling the rest of this review, it absolutely did.

“The Last Wish” introduces audiences to a version of the swords-cat who is at a later point in his life. Years after thwarting the Fairy Godmother, confronting Humpty Dumpty and doing whatever happened in “Shrek the Third,” Puss is down to the last of his nine lives and is forced to confront the reality of death which is personified by the mysterious Big Bad Wolf. In an attempt to avoid death for as long as possible, Puss seeks out a mythical shooting star that will allow him to wish for all of his lives back, joined by Kitty Softpaws (returning from the original “Puss in Boots” film) and an optimistic pup who is only referred to as “Perrito” (literally Spanish for “puppy”). However, their quest will not be easy as there are other fairy tale characters who seek out this wish as well: Little Jack Horner, Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Although the story is interesting, the way its events are visually presented is arguably even more so. The most noticeable aspect of “The Last Wish” is its animation. With a style that takes obvious cues from “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” while also bringing its own unique spin, the end result is a movie that is positively gorgeous to behold. Characters’ faces are expressive and comedic, movement is fluid and fight scenes are energetic. This movie is one of the most visually beautiful and unique films to ever come out of mainstream western animation studios in recent memory.

In terms of the film’s writing, the standout element is strangely enough not the heroes but the villains. There are three primary antagonists to this story, each one serving a drastically different function for the experience of the movie. Goldilocks, accompanied by the Three Bears, is the sympathetic villain who is so fleshed out that she becomes hard to root against. The Big Bad Wolf is an intimidating presence who raises the film’s tension through the roof any time he appears on screen. Lastly is Jack Horner, a cartoonishly evil villain whose ridiculously sinister misdeeds are an absolute joy to watch, due in no small part to the voice performance of John Mulaney. While the heroes are certainly enjoyable, it’s the antagonists who make the film an absolute treat.

This film is an absolute joy to watch, but it also has a lot of emotional depth to offer beyond its comedic value. As mentioned earlier, Puss spends the movie confronting his own mortality and the fact that he must do more with his life than be a reckless swashbuckler. All the while, Kitty grapples with her own trust issues and her inability to let her guard down for other people. These characters’ motivations are strong driving forces for the film’s plot and are developed in compelling ways. For a PG-rated film, it goes into a surprising amount of depth concerning the inevitability of death, making for greatly compelling character moments and an intriguing narrative as a whole.

As great as the film is, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention its few shortcomings. There’s a section of about 15 minutes in the start of the movie where nothing of note happens and the film just seems to be wasting time until the main quest starts. A few of the jokes also  fail to hit the mark. While the majority are great, there are some jokes that noticeably feel like they’re trying too hard to appeal to younger audiences,  in turn falling flatter than others. However, these are minor points that I only bring up in an attempt to be as thorough as possible in my thoughts on the film. They are aspects that hold the film back from perfection, but do not come anywhere close to ruining it.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a truly wonderful addition to the Shrek franchise, the Dreamworks Animation library and the world of film as a whole. Gripping themes, stunning animation and wildly entertaining characters are enough to make this film an easy recommendation for film fans everywhere. To appease readers who will never be satisfied without a rigid arbitrary numerical value placed on a film, I would give “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” an 8 out of 10.