By Ben Konuch
“The legend will never die!”
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is the newest installment in the “Shrek universe,” and the second film to focus on its iconic fighting feline. As a character, Puss in Boots has captured the love of audiences from his first appearance in 2004’s “Shrek 2” as a “Zorro” parody voiced by the same actor as Zorro, Antonio Banderas. While Puss had his solo film debut in 2011’s “Puss in Boots,” this installment was suitably entertaining but didn’t make an impact on me as a child as the other “Shrek” films did. So when I heard that over ten years later we’d be getting another standalone Puss in Boots movie, I was expecting another fun and entertaining, yet ultimately forgettable, ride.
And boy was I wrong.
“The Last Wish” isn’t just a great Puss in Boots movie, it may genuinely be one of the best animated films I’ve seen. I know that sounds like extremely high praise, but it should. “The Last Wish” quite honestly has no business being as good as it is, and a quick search along IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes shows that critics and audiences both have been shocked by just how good this film truly is. It has everything you’d expect from an animated action comedy but goes above and beyond to not just put its pieces together well, but to create the best possible versions of each element.
The film follows our hero Puss in Boots, who is living the dream of being a walking legend. But when he discovers that he’s used up all but one of his nine lives, a terrifying encounter with a mysterious bounty hunter causes something Puss has never felt: fear. This fear of losing his last life leads him to lay low with a kind and absent-minded old woman’s group of adopted stray cats until an attack by Goldilocks and the Three Bears Crime Family brings news to the hiding Puss that a map to the legendary Wishing Star has been found. This star has the power to grant Puss’s wish for his nine lives back, and this revelation thrusts Puss out of hiding back into the world of fairytales, magic and swashbucklers where he’ll reunite with old flame Kitty Softpaws as well as new faces all vying for the same Wishing Star he wants.
While this setup might seem basic, “The Last Wish” takes this idea and turns it into what feels like a wild, bombastic western about an aging hero forced to grapple with his mortality. If that sounds like it’s more of an adult film than a kid’s one you wouldn’t be too far off, as one of the best strengths of “The Last Wish” is how it appeals to both children and adults alike. There are plenty of bright, flashy fun and silly jokes for kids to be entertained by, but there’s also an abundance of deeper themes and messages in the film to give parents and adults something to latch onto as well. Even some of the humor is aimed towards adults and a few jokes will likely fly over kids’ heads, but I heard the adults in my theater laughing just as much as the kids did throughout the entire runtime.
The characters in this film are handled in a way that made me so incredibly happy. Every player in this game has a reason for being there in the plot, from Puss and his newfound “friend” Perro to Kitty, to Goldilocks and her family, to the mysterious bounty hunter chasing Puss, to even Jack Horner, played in a delightfully perfect surprise role by John Mulaney, and a Jimmy Stewart-sounding judgemental cricket. Every single one of them contributes to the plot and has payoffs that make their inclusion matter, and even antagonists and side characters that could simply be villains or comic relief have deeply meaningful character arcs. The story behind Goldilocks, voiced immaculately by Florence Pugh, and her bear family was especially well-written when they could have been easily reduced to sidekicks or antagonists.
Not only is “The Last Wish” fun to watch, but it’s also downright gorgeous. The film followed Dreamworks’ other 2022 release “The Bad Guys” in taking inspiration from “Into the Spiderverse” in terms of animation style and presentation, and while there are obvious similarities and similar elements, “The Last Wish” has been able to create its own unique visual style to look like the pages of a fairytale picturebook come to life. The action is fast-paced and fluid, with epic setpieces and smoothly animated fights mixing with gorgeous sceneries and detailed emotional expressions on characters to define “The Last Wish” as a marvel of animation.
Every element of “The Last Wish” is the best possible version of what it could be, from its story to its pacing to its characters and even to its animation. It’s filled with fun and laughter for audiences of any age and is riddled with plot twists and narrative directions that you won’t actually see coming. It may not be the movie of the decade, but when it comes to animated films, I can’t think of anything “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” could do better.
I give “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” a 10/10.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is now showing in theaters
Ben Konuch is a sophomore Strategic Communication student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and hanging out with crazy MuKappa friends.
Images courtesy of DreamWorks
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