Just when you were about to give up on 3-D—and the inflated price of admission to watch it on a theater screen—along comes a film that’s worth the money. In fact, it isn’t the story that makes Puss in Boots stand out, but the imaginative staging, especially in 3-D.
The moment that Puss made his debut in Shrek 2, dramatically voiced by Antonio Banderas, and all but walked away with the picture, it was clear that DreamWorks Animation had created a resonant character. Now, inevitably, he is starring in his own CG-animated feature and while he essentially remains a one-joke character (a self-styled Don Juan who takes himself, and everything he does, very seriously) I have to admit it’s a pretty good joke.
The challenge for director Chris Miller and his team of writers and artists was to come up with a storyline that would—
—give the stylish cat some room to grow, with colorful costars and inventive situations. They’ve pulled this off pretty well, although the story is much more cluttered than it needs to be.
Since Puss is essentially a straight-man, he needs lively, funny characters to bounce off. His leading lady is a tantalizing feline named Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) with whom he dances, both literally and figuratively, throughout the picture. And returning to the Mother Goose/fairy-tale realm of Shrek, the filmmakers introduce Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) as Puss’ best friend from boyhood. They were once as close as brothers, raised together at an orphanage, until Humpty became jealous of Puss and betrayed him. Now he’s back, seeking forgiveness—as well as Puss’ complicity in a scheme to steal some magic beans that will send them up a famous beanstalk to the home of goose eggs made of gold.
It’s in the home stretch that the already-busy story bogs down, leading to multiple climaxes and a less-than-triumphant finale.
But Banderas’ forceful performance is consistently amusing, and the film is a visual treat from start to finish. So if Puss in Boots isn’t a great animated feature, it’s still pretty good…and that’s no small accomplishment.