Cresting on the wave of popularity enjoyed by the Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots brings us a spin-off tale of adventure, of love, of betrayal and companionship. Antonio Banderas’ seductive tone provides the voice for the leather-booted, ginger-furred feline that is Puss (basically a two-foot high Zorro with claws), whilst Zach Galifianakis does a fantastic – probably award winning – job impersonating an egg.
The basic storyline is as follows: two cats and a talking egg attempt to steal some magic beans from a pair of outlaws. Then they plant the beans, climb the beanstalk and steal a golden-egg-laying goose that lives in a castle in the clouds. It sounds like the ingredients of a very surreal edition of Ready Steady Cook, and if you’re looking for a finely crafted plot then Puss in Boots is not for you. You’d have a better time forming your own plot from tin of alaphabet soup kicked up against a wall.
There is such an abundance of references to characters from children’s stories it’s as if someone has pulled a handful of nusery rhyme books from the shelf, opened them all to random pages and repeatedly pushed them into your face – albeit, in a warm and nostalgic way. Although Jack and Jill, for some inexplicable reason (maybe due to the trauma suffered on that fatal day Jack fell down a hill), appear to have morphed into Wild West versions of Bonnie and Clyde. Rougher than a witch’s chin and ugly enough to peel the paint off a dumper truck, they act as the true villians in the film.
This brings me on to another point. Puss in Boots makes many nods towards old Spaghetti Westerns and pokes fun at the cliches associated with them. You are presented the dusty colours; the dust-covered tumbleweeds; the wanted posters printed on washed-out dusty paper; the dusty swing doors blowing dust from the outdoors into a saloons full of miscreants…and dust. This isn’t to say the film is void of splashes of colour at various points and, I’ll admit that the quality of the animation is quite exquisite, but the feeling that you’re in some dustbowl town of Mexico is very apparent. If this was Dreamworks’ intentions, they’ve certainly succeeded.
I don’t think I laughed once during the film, but then that may be because a sizeable proportion of the humour is visually based, which no doubt works wonders for children or for the sort of people that find the image of Humpty Dumpty wearing a tight fitting shell-suit so thigh-slappingly hilarious that their lungs burst, but for a burnt-out, stern-faced twenty year old it doesn’t. That combined with the fact that I was pre-empting the mild sexual innuendo occasionally chucked in to keep adults happy, means that I couldn’t even muster one measly chuckle.
Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable in a predictable family orientated sort of way. The plot is a cobbled together amalgamation of various action scenes punctuated with a basic storyline but that is to be expected. I did have fun recognising the various pop culture references as well as the feature of a quote straight from the script of Fight Club, but it wasn’t anything special and I don’t feel it was as clever or as funny as the first Shrek. Neither was it in any way particularly original. All in all, it is a fairly decent swash-buckling origins story of a heroic rogue seeking to right the wrongs of his past. Watchable but nothing special.
Out now in Wide Release