November 27, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Joel Crawford; co-directed by Januel Mercado
Some language in Spanish with no subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in a fictional world populated by classic fairy-tale characters and original DreamWorks Animation characters, the animated film “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” features a racially diverse voice cast (Latino, white and black) portraying humans and talking animals.
Culture Clash: Outlaw pirate cat Puss in Boots goes on a quest with friends and competes with enemies to find a magical Wishing Star that can grant one last wish to whomever gets to the star first.
Culture Audience: “Puss in Boots” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the movie’s voice cast members; the “Puss in Boots” and “Shrek” franchises; and movies that are family-friendly, thrilling stories with a lot of heart.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a fun-filled adventure packed with comedic moments, poignant life lessons and some wacky surprises. This sequel is an instant classic that charms with a talented voice cast, stunning visuals and a very entertaining story. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is more than a worthy follow-up to 2011’s “Puss in Boots.” “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” could easily be considered one of the best movies from DreamWorks Animation.
Directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by Januel Mercado, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is the type of sequel where it’s not necessary to see the original movie to understand the story. Most viewers will probably know already that the swashbuckling, outlaw pirate cat known as Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) first made an appearance in 2004’s “Shrek 2” and subsequently appeared in 2007’s “Shrek the Third” and 2010’s “Shrek Forever After.” The first “Puss in Boots” movie was his origin story. Also part of the “Puss in Boots” franchise are the 2012 short film “Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos,” the 2015-2018 Netflix series “The Adventures of Puss in Boots” and the 2017 Netflix interactive special “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale.”
In “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Puss goes on a quest to the Black Forest to find a magical Wishing Star that can grant one last wish to anyone who finds the star first. He’s got some help from friends and some competition from enemies. Before he gets to the Black Forest, the movie has a meaningful subplot about Puss facing his own mortality. This character development shows a vulnerable side to Puss, whose swaggering confidence and bravery are tested throughout the story.
In the beginning of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Puss is his usually lovably arrogant self, and he’s still a fugitive from the law who’s wanted for a bank robbery that he was tricked into committing. (The first “Puss in Boots” movie goes into more details about this robbery.) Puss barrels his way into a foreign land, where he ends up in a palace, and slides down the portrait painting of the ruling governor (voiced by Bernardo De Paula), who watches in horror as Puss’s claws drag through the painting and ruin it. Puss then fights and defeats a tree monster, but Puss is soon knocked unconscious by a giant bell that falls on him.
Puss wakes up in the office a man who describe himself as the local medical doctor (voiced by Anthony Mendez), who explains that he also works as a barber, a veterinarian and a witch doctor. The doctor tells Puss that Puss actually died but was able to be revived. The doctor knows that cats have nine lives, so he asks Puss how many lives Puss has used up already. Puss has never really thought about it before, but after some reflection, Puss realizes that he has used eight of his nine lives. After Puss dies in his ninth life, Puss will be dead forever.
The doctor gives Puss this advice that Puss doesn’t want to hear: “You need to retire.” The doctor recommends that Puss go to a home of an animal rescuer named Mama Luna (voiced by Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who operates a cat sanctuary out of her house called Mama Luna’s Cat Rescue. Puss refuses to take that advice and quickly leaves the office. The doctor says these parting words to Puss: “Death comes for us all.”
While Puss contemplates his next move, he says to himself while he looks in a mirror: “You’re too good-looking to retire.” Puss goes to a saloon to drink some of his sorrows away. And it’s there that he meets a bounty hunter called the Big Bad Wolf, also known as Wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura), who has been looking to capture Puss. And you know what happens next.
During their fight, Puss is armed with his trusty fencing sword, while Wolf has two scythes that he uses in each hand. Puss’ life flashes before his eyes during this battle. And for the first time in his life, Puss experiences true fear that makes him temporarily freeze. Puss runs into a room, where Wolf traps him by locking Puss inside the room. However, Puss finds a way to escape.
The panic attack that Puss experienced unnerves him so much, he decides to take the doctor’s advice. Puss doesn’t really want to retire, but he’s more afraid of dying in his next fight. Before Puss goes to Mama Luna’s Cat Rescue, he buries his pirate clothes in a shallow grave and gives a mournful retirement speech out loud that no one can hear except Puss.
Mama Luna’s Cat Rescue is crowded with dozens of cats that Mama Luna knows is a violation of health code laws. A running joke in Mama Luna’s dialogue is that she’s constantly paranoid about getting in trouble with animal care officials for all the cats that she keeps indoors. Mama Luna is a bachelorette with a big personality, and she seems to run the sanctuary all by herself. She loves her cats and takes good care of them, but she appears dangerously close to being a cat hoarder.
Puss, who is naturally a loner, is miserable at this cat sanctuary. He’s bored in his new home and dislikes the communal meals that he is forced to have with the other cats. During Puss’ forlorn “retirement,” the Doors song “This Is the End” (sung by Dan Navarro, a co-writer of the movie’s original songs) plays to comedic effect.
Puss soon meets an unlikely friend at this sanctuary: a small, talkative dog disguised as a cat. His name is Perro (voiced by Harvey Guillén), but Puss eventually gives him the nickname Perrito. (In Spanish, the word “perro” means “dog,” and the word “perrito” means “little dog.”) Perrito is humble, very optimistic, and eager to make friends. In other words, he’s almost the complete opposite of Puss.
There would be no “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” if Puss stayed at the cat sanctuary for the rest of the movie. His time at Mama Luna’s Cat Rescue comes to an end with the arrival of four home invaders: Goldilocks (voiced by Florence Pugh) and the three Bears: Mama Bear (voiced by Olivia Colman), Papa Bear (voiced by Ray Winstone) and Baby Bear (voiced by Samson Kayo), who has some rivalry going on with Goldilocks, whose nickname is Goldi.
Just like in the fairy tale, Goldilocks is a human orphan who has been adopted into this bear family. But unlike the fairy tale, Goldi is now a tough young woman who is in the bounty-hunting business with her bear family. All four of them have tracked Puss to Mama Luna’s Cat Rescue with the intent to capture Puss.
During this attempted capture, Puss and Perrito also find out that Goldi and the Three Bears are also looking for the map to the Wishing Star. It’s how Puss and Perrito find out that this Wishing Star will grant one last wish to the first person who finds the star. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Puss now wants to find the Wishing Star too, because his wish is to live forever.
Puss and Perrito manage to escape outside from Goldi and the Three Bears. Puss decides he’s coming out of retirement to find the Wishing Star. He gathers his clothes, his sword, and brings Perrito (a willing sidekick) along for this new adventure. Perrito doesn’t have a wish. He’s just happy he’s found a new friend.
Along the way, Puss and Perrito find out that another outlaw is in search of the Wishing Star: Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney), a wealthy underworld boss who operates in the back of a bakery. Jack hasn’t lost his bratty ways since he was a child known as Little Jack Horner, who famously ruined a pie by sticking his thumb in it. Jack is now a ruthless villain who has several minions helping him find the map to the Wishing Star. Jack’s wish is to become the most powerful person in this fairtyale universe.
During the journey that Puss and Perrito take to the Black Forest to find the Wishing Star, Puss unexpectedly reunites with his on-again/off-again love Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek), who reveals that she was hiding in a trunk. Puss and Kitty haven’t seen each other in years. And let’s just say that they have “unfinished business.” Kitty, who is very cynical about many things, prides herself for being just as brave and stubborn as Puss, so naturally this on-again/off-again couple will clash.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” doesn’t overstuff the movie with too many characters, thereby giving room for the movie to develop all the principal characters in ways that are better than the average animated adventure film. Puss is now prone to having a few panic attacks, which can throw him off his usually fearless game. Kitty struggles with learning to know the difference between being independent and being mistrustful. The relationship between Kitty and Puss goes through a realistic evolution during this adventure.
Perrito is a mixture of being innocent and wise about life, but not in a contrived and cloying way. He is by far the most adorable and sincere character in the movie, so expect kids (and quite a few adults) to want Perrito toys and other Perrito merchandise after seeing this movie. When Perrito tells his tragic backstory about his human family making numerous attempts to abandon him, Perrito chooses to remember it with so much optimism, he describes these abandonment attempts as the family playing pranks on him.
Goldi has her own family issues: Even though the bears raised her as one of their own, she still feels like a misfit because she’s a human in a family of bears. Jack is an unfortunate example of someone who was bullied as a child but then grew up to be a bully. As for Wolf, he might not be what he first appears to be, and his actions in the movie might not be as easy to predict as some people might think.
All of the cast members give very good performances, with Banderas, Hayek, Guillén and Pugh as the standouts. They all make their characters sound like they have fully formed personalities instead of being two-dimensional cartoon characters reciting lines. The movie’s snappy dialogue can be enjoyed by people of all ages (open-minded adults will appreciate the cheeky almost-cursing in the movie), while the plot has some predictability but also some innovation that’s unexpected.
“Puss in Boots” might disappoint some people expecting to hear more original songs in the movie. However, the centerpiece original song (“Fearless Hero”), which is heard at different times in the movie, is catchy and memorable. Navarro, Heitor Pereira and Paul Fisher co-wrote “Fearless Hero,” which at one point is performed by Banderas and Pereira in the movie. Navarro and Daniel Oviedo co-wrote “La Vida Es Una,” performed by Karol G during the movie’s end credits.
Everything in “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: is well-paced, with the action scenes particularly fun to watch. When Puss in Boots first made an appearance in “Shrek 2,” he was a true scene-stealer. With “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” the Puss in Boots franchise is now stealing some of the thunder from the better-known “Shrek” movies. And the high quality and engaging story of “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” make it the type of movie that can be considered a beloved treasure by fans of animated films.
Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation will release “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” in U.S. cinemas on December 21, 2022. A sneak preview of the movie was shown in U.S. cinemas on November 26, 2022.