Film Review: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is visually arresting, spectacularly entertaining and surprisingly mature

  • Peter Gray
  • December 16, 2022
  • Comments Off on Film Review: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is visually arresting, spectacularly entertaining and surprisingly mature

Given that it has been 11 years since we last saw Puss in Boots garner his own solo outing, it’s fair for any audiences going into this one to have certain reservations.  Not that the original was bad in any manner, but Puss in Boots: The Last Wish isn’t exactly a continuation many were clamouring for, and with over a decade in between stories you’re right in wondering if there’s a reason behind such an extended break.

Any fears can be entirely put to rest though, as The Last Wish is spectacularly entertaining, surprisingly emotional and honing a maturity that breathes new life into the long dormant Shrek franchise, whilst simultaneously showcasing an exciting animation style that sets it apart from DreamWorks’ usual visual renderings.

Long after the first film – 2011’s appropriately titled Puss in BootsThe Last Wish reintroduces us to Puss (once again voiced with dedicated vigour by Antonio Banderas) as the death-defying feline we all knew him to be.  Swashbuckling and serenading at once, the film’s opener is a bright, rousing set-piece that, both comically and tragically, results in the poor cat’s death.  But it’s okay because he has nine lives.  Or so he thought.

Through an amusing montage that showcases the 8 times poor Puss has perished, he’s suddenly faced with an existential crisis of sorts when he’s now no longer living without a certain fear.  Death comes for us all, and for Puss it’s now much closer than he would desire.  But The Last Wish would be no fun if it was all kitty wallowing, so it’s a suitable turn of events that the Paul Fisher-penned script – the scribe reuniting with his Croods: A New Age director Joel Crawford for this go-around – has a macguffin built in to the film’s subtitle, and Puss takes off on an adventure to seek out a legendary wishing star that, if found, will grant him, well, wouldn’t you know it, a last wish.

Puss isn’t the only one seeking said wishing star though, and The Last Wish has an awful lot of fun in reuniting him with his on-again-off-again love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault, still expressing her sensuality through her vocal prowess).  Acting as something of a guide to Puss on his quest, Kitty challenges him at every turn, hoping he reveals the true, vulnerable nature she knows he’s capable of.  For a film aimed at children, The Last Wish is alarmingly mature, a mentality that extends to its handling of the physical manifestation of death in the Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura), a menacing creation that shadows Puss throughout, reminding him that death is imminent.  The Wolf is quite possibly the most terrifying characters the DreamWorks Studio has created, and with Moura’s intimidating vocals he’s undeniably going to irk the smaller children in the audience; parents, you have been warned.

Offsetting these darker, more contemplative additives to Puss’s journey is Perrito (voiced with adorable enthusiasm by Harvey Guillén), a therapy dog who disguised himself (badly) as a cat in a feline commune overseen by the eccentric Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) in order to make some new friends.  Perrito is essentially a happy loner who’s just stoked to be invited to the party, and it’s his unmatched optimism and sunny outlook on life that initially grates Puss before warming him on his trek; a venture that is also being travelled by a more warrior-like Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her trio of bears, Mama (Olivia Colman), Papa (Ray Winstone) and Baby (Samson Kayo).

It’s upon every character’s journey towards the wishing star – which also includes John Mulaney‘s villainous take on Little Jack Horner, who here is considerably much bigger in stature and ego – that The Last Wish explores existentialism and the meaning of life.  Whilst that might be a heavy concept for a family film, it’s a beautiful venture and a welcome temperament for a project that isn’t talking down to its younger viewers.

A lesson in valuing your own life and to be grateful for all you have, The Last Wish successfully blends its mature commentary with humour and vigour.  Director Crawford has defied expectations with this film, leaning into the occasionally risqué trademark humour of the Shrek franchise, whilst setting it apart with an animated style that is truly enrapturing.  Driving home how we all only have one life to live, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish makes sure not to waste any of our time in the process.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Puss In Boots: The Last Wish is screening in Australian theatres from Boxing Day, December 26th, 2022, following advance screenings December 16th – 18th.  It will be theatrically released in the United States from December 21st, 2022.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.