Puss in Boots benefitted from being released with most people’s expectations being quite low. It wasn’t the fault of the character but more the fault of the franchise that created it. The Shrek movies had become a perfect example of how to run a successful and much-loved franchise into the ground with unnecessary sequels.
After Shrek 4, there was only one way the Shrek franchise could successfully continue and that was by branching out with another character. Puss in Boots wasn’t the best of characters from the franchise. He served a purpose in the second film and there were some great gags to be had but he lost his place in the series as the films progressed. One of the best characters is Eddie Murphy’s Donkey but he was never going to be able to hold a film of his own, so Puss in Boots was the logical step to take.
Not being a fan of the character and having my expectation lowered dramatically by two unnecessary, unfunny sequels, I watched Puss in Boots expecting very little. Whether this was a determining factor or not, I actually really enjoyed the film.
It was never going to be as unique or as funny and fresh as the original Shrek (or even the first sequel) but it did feel a lot more like those original movies than a progression of the final few films. For starters, it takes the best aspect of Shrek, the fairy tales, and dumps the more tedious aspect, the “pop culture” references.
Puss in Boots has his own story that created the original character but this is largely ignored to give him much more of a Zorro style origin story and setting. It’s perfect for the character and the logical step considering he is voiced by the deep, Spanish tones of Antonio Banderas. It also gives the film a much more unique feel than the Shrek movies, creating a movie that feels more like Zorro, crossed with Indiana Jones, with a sprinkle of fairy tales.
The fairy tales don’t disappoint either. Zach Galifianakis plays Humpty Dumpty and the take on his classic story is told very well. He also links in brilliantly with the beanstalk, the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs and the villanous Jack and Jill. I thought that Shrek had exhausted the fairy tales that could be “adapted” but Puss in Boots proved me wrong.
One of the best characters isn’t even a fairy tale creation but an original, Kitty Softpaws, played by Salma Hayek. The chemistry and the way she banters with Puss is brilliantly played and makes for a great little story in itself. In fact, the film does a great job of creating a better Puss in Boots character than the Shrek films ever managed. To say they’ve added much-needed depth feels silly considering we are talking about a cartoon, spin-off character, but a back story and an original adventure actually adhere me much more to Puss in Boots.
It’s difficult to get away from the comparisons with Shrek. It is much better than the final two Shrek films but never really manages to recreate the originality or humour that the first two achieved. The fairy tale aspect is done well but not really in a clever way, like the ogre’s films managed. There are also very few stand-out characters, apart from Puss, Humpty and Softpaws. In Shrek, the minor characters were just as brilliant as the main cast, unfortunately, the same can’t be said here.
That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to see another Puss in Boots. It is very watchable and has a lot more life in it when it comes for sequels than Shrek ever did.
Overall, Puss in Boots surprised me. It had very little to do to better the final sequels of the Shrek series that spawned it but it actually manages to create its own, unique identity. There are some great fairy tale links, the setting is perfect for the character and it has a great story. Lets hope the almost inevitable sequels are much better than Shrek’s.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)