Puss in Boots: The Last Wish‘s Slick Animation and Classic References Make for a Furmiliar TreatMovies Reviews
The Swampverse has seen the Spider-Verse! After an 11-year cat nap, our favorite orange outlaw is back for another flamenco adventure. Told with a bold and contemporary visual style, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish celebrates the magic of classic folklore with the reverential irreverence we’ve come to love about this storybookland. What could have easily been a hairball of half-digested nostalgia is transformed into a mature and cat-ivating story that positively purrs.
When we last left our fearless feline, Puss (Antonio Banderas) was still running across terracotta rooftops. But now it seems all nine of his lives have finally caught up with him. Down to his last life and suddenly aware of his mortality, his only hope of getting his lives back is to wish upon the magic star lodged in the heart of The Dark Forest. His journey crosses paths with his old flame, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and Puss even gets his own chatty sidekick/service animal (Harvey Guillén), just like his old pal Shrek. To find the magic star and make a wish, they’ll need to conquer new foes: Goldi (Florence Pugh), The Three Bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo) and Little Jack Horner (John Mulaney). Together they’ll prove there’s no more wondrous magic than Team Friendship.
The first thing you’ll notice about this chapter of the Swampverse is that the animation style has turned a new page. Rushing on the white streaks of an anime-influenced CGI, The Last Wish features an exciting blend of traditional computer drawing and state-of-the-art tricks. Not only are the bright moments more twinkling, but the dark times are also truly menacing. The changes in animation technology in the last decade allow for a richly textured world that cracks, burns and sparkles with enchantment.
This allows the film to run through an ever-shifting magical landscape at fairytale speed. Getting lost in the chaos would be easy in this multiverse of dreams and fancies, but director Joel Crawford deftly handles his dizzying array of environments and locations. There’s a paw-pable sense that Crawford has anchored his film in the tradition of the beloved franchise while also pushing it into a new and exciting future.
The Shrek films and their spin-offs are known for their endearing voice work. Both Banderas and Hayek slip into their fur-miliar purr-sonas with ease. Fortunately, Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow’s script gives them richer material to work with than just rehashing old jokes. They draw from their rich history as friends and on-screen lovers to bring a developed weight to their characters’ complex relationships—and the new talents are just as delightful. Guillén’s wag as the exceedingly attached Perrito is a delight. He genuinely captures Perrito’s bug-eyed view of the world, his outsized optimism tinged with tragedy. But the performance that leaves the biggest impression is the film’s smallest character. In a year stuffed with Pinocchios, Kevin McCann’s Ethical Bug joyously anticipates our fatigue. Witty, wry and dynamic, his Jiminy-Stewart-Cricket, who tries to be the conscience of our main villain Jack Horner, explodes in hilarious fury, unleashing the ridiculousness found in morality characters found throughout folklore.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish excels where The Swampverse has always succeeded: Indexing classic folklore. Like Jack Horner’s collection of magic artifacts being pulled from a bottomless bag, Fisher and Swerdlow provide an unending stream of references to stories, tales, songs and lullabies that we don’t share anymore. No other films today celebrate Mother Goose lullabies, idioms, Dancehall music and literary fairy tales the same way The Last Wish does, let alone takes the time to remind us of the difference between these cultural genres. In an industry obsessed with retelling its own stories, movies like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish stand apart by using stories we all own—that encourages us to remember these things or risk falling into traps. Though our folklore is filled with magic and whimsy, it’s not afraid to go with us into the dark forests of life and help us confront mortality and Death, that Big Bad Wolf that comes for us all.
Director: Joel Crawford
Writer: Paul Fisher, Tommy Swerdlow
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Anthony Mendez
Release Date: December 21, 2022
B.L. Panther is a culture writer, scholar and Pisces from Northern Illinois. B! writes for outlets such as Honey Literary Journal and The Spool, where they’re also the cohost of The Meh-thod Podcast discussing great actors in less-than-great films. A champion hermit, they enjoy reading, the indoors, afternoon naps and doing nothing at all.