The latest in the Dreamworks Studios catalog, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”, was released in December 2022 and had an unexpected arrival as one of the year’s most enjoyable films. Serving as a sequel to the 2011 film “Puss in Boots”, which in itself is a spinoff of the Dreamworks “Shrek” franchise, the film takes new steps for not only the previous films in its series but also for the animation studio as a whole.
The main plot follows the titular feline, reprised by Antonio Banderas, who is informed that he’s on the last of his “nine lives.” Fearing that his days are drawing to a close after a harrowing encounter with the bounty hunter known as “Death” voiced by Wagner Moura, Puss decides to retire his status as a folk hero. After hearing about the map to a Wishing Star, a magical object that can grant the user any wish they desire, Puss retakes the mantle and sets off on a journey. Accompanied by new pal Perrito, voiced by Harvey Gullien, and old flame Kitty Softpaws, voiced by Salma Hayek, Puss hopes to use the Wishing Star to restore his nine lives
Death isn’t the only thing that chases after our main protagonist, as the film also has an assembly of memorable villains as well. This includes the power hungry pastry chef Big Jack Horner and a family of outlaws consisting of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Each of the antagonists have their own entertaining personalities that not only enhance the experience of the film, but also slightly subvert the expectations of normal animated villains as the story progresses.
The film is jam packed with incredible animation and showcases and stylized action scenes which incorporates lower frame rate movement in the same vein as the 2018 animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” from Sony Pictures. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” continues to showcase that big budget animated films can still have an extra layer of personality integrated into its animation style.
A film can have all style, but little substance. Thankfully, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” does not fall into this trap, as the film is also layered with an almost too-real sense of dread, with the acceptance of mortality being one of the central themes in the film. At the start, Puss doesn’t think much of the previous lives that he carelessly threw away, but the introduction of the character of Death provides the story with a seemingly unbeatable force that our protagonist has to struggle with. Knowing that his last life is on the line, Puss begins to feel genuine fear each time Death makes his presence and learns to treasure his one life that remains.
Each character of the film also has different perspectives on how they treat the concept of mortality. The character of Perrito is upbeat and positive with how he treats life despite his over-the-top tragic backstory. This contrasts with the villainous Jack Horner, who was given everything growing up but still wanted more, and would carelessly throw lives away just to fulfill his selfish needs.
Combining deep and realistic themes with an entertaining cast of characters set in a stylish action packed fantasy setting, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” stands on its own as a fantastic animated film for all ages.