DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots has been absent from the big screen for twelve years, and in cat years, that’s sixty-five. Despite the risk of killing a franchise, the hiatus has done wonders for The Last Wish. The animation is visually stunning, thanks in part to inspiration from Spider-Verse. The storyline is a mature take on a fairytale, reminiscent of Disney’s Pirates and Wolverine’s Logan. The film starts with a mix of slapstick and action, with Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) defeating the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar and being crushed by the town bell. Unfazed by death, Puss has lived eight lives, each one ending in a farcical manner. But a brush with death leaves him shaken, and a chilling performance by Narcos’ Wagner Moura adds to the drama.

The inevitability of death brings about a sense of melancholy, evident in the protagonist’s unkempt appearance and new identity. Gone are the heroic cape, hat, and boots, replaced by a baby blue collar and mittens. It’s a disappointing end, but fortunately, the arrival of Florence Pugh’s Goldilocks interrupts it. She’s a tough and stylish character, accompanied by three bear companions voiced by Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, and Samson Kayo. Their mission is to obtain a mystical wishing star that can grant any wish. Goldi enlists the help of Puss, a legendary bounty hunter, to steal a map that will lead them to the star. The plot is familiar but well-executed.

Big Jack Horner, a former nursery rhyme character turned corrupt pastry chef, is also after the star. John Mulaney delivers some of the film’s funniest lines as Horner, whose appearance is reminiscent of Pocahontas’ villain Governor Ratcliffe, and whose mode of transportation is similar to the mechanical towns in Peter Jackson’s Mortal Engines adaptation. Salma Hayek Pinault reprises her role as Puss’ love interest Kitty Softpaws, but newcomer Perrito steals the show. He’s a pot-bellied therapy dog with adorable bug eyes and a high-pitched voice, sure to be a hit with children worldwide. He’s also wise beyond his years, dispensing philosophical musings about the meaning of life in casual conversation.

The Last Wish restores some of the original satire that was lost in subsequent Shrek films, although it does so in a more inclusive and less sharp manner. The movie references a variety of popular fairy tales and characters, including Cinderella, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, and Mary Poppins, to create a sense of familiarity and playful teasing. The film also cleverly incorporates Pinocchio’s conscious bug and Goldilocks’ tale.

However, what sets The Last Wish apart from previous Shrek films is its sensational visual advancement. The movie replaces the rounded realism of earlier DreamWorks films with a graphic, painterly style that was successfully used in The Bad Guys and borrowed from Sony’s Into the Spider Verse. The animation is inventive and the interplay of color and light is dazzling, making for a thrilling visual experience. While Shrek’s slower pacing may not have been a perfect match for this madcap visual approach, Puss in Boots’ adventures are a perfect fit. Overall, The Last Wish is a visually stunning and entertaining film.

By Lucy

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