Puss In Boots (DVD)

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Puss In Boots (DVD)

Swashbuckling feline Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas) fights to save his town with the help of Kitty Softpaws (voice of Salma Hayek) and Hump...

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Review of "Puss In Boots (DVD)"

published 21/01/2013 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
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Well, I guess we've had a good run...Sorry to see Ciao! go.
Good
Pro Solid animation and voice work.
Cons A flimsy plot and a lack of jokes.
very helpful
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"Bad Kitty?"

Long before Puss in Boots teamed up with Shrek and the gang, he was an abandoned kitten living in an orphanage. Growing up with best friend Humpty Alexander Dumpty, he got into plenty of scrapes. But while Puss grew up to be a misunderstood swashbuckling hero, Humpty turned to a life of crime, betraying his best friend in the process. Now sworn enemies, the egg’s back and trying to get Puss to help him pull off his biggest ever heist – stealing Jack and Jill’s magic beans, so he can go after the goose that lays the golden eggs at the giant’s castle at the top of the magic beanstalk.

“Shrek the Third” director Chris Miller returns with a spin-off from the popular franchise that, like its hero, coasts by on good looks and derring-do. In terms of animation, it is comparable with the rest of Dreamworks Animations’ output. The characters are detailed and expressive, with large, liquid eyes and faces capable of tiny twitches and tics that give them a lot of personality, in spite of the rubbery skin textures. The protagonists are capable of fluid movement and have a good sense of weight and underlying musculature. You can see individual hairs that move with the character and are affected by the environment. Their costumes have lots of detail, from the plume on Puss in Boots’ hat to the stitching on his boots. The backgrounds are no less detailed – there are a number of environments from deserts to towns, caves, taverns and houses inside and out. There is a good range of textures from rough-hewn rock to splintery wood, sand and scratched mirrors. The overarching style is slightly run-down and distinctly Spanish. The work on light and shade is equally accomplished – the glowing candlelight is particularly well-observed. So there is a sense of a complete, consistent world in terms of the visuals.

The storytelling is sadly less impressive. Although the film has plenty of action and adventure to keep younger viewers entertained, it isn’t brilliantly paced. So there is a lack of tension throughout. I got the impression that the filmmakers refrained from anything too scary or suspenseful for fear of frightening the kiddies. There is some nicely thought-out swashbuckling, including one scene that is part fight, part dance and some nice references to old-fashioned westerns that come in the form of a prolonged wagon chase through a canyon. And surprisingly for this kind of movie, there is plenty of romance as Puss falls for fellow thief Kitty Softpaws. Although the director has reasonable timing, there isn’t enough humour or tension to keep the film ticking over, thanks to the tepid script. Considering this is a family movie, I was surprised at how low the gag ratio was (the funniest joke is a running gag that consists of a certain word) and the majority of the jokes are of the slapstick variety. There are one or two comments that will go over the heads of younger viewers (like Puss saying “It’s for my glaucoma!” when he’s caught with some catnip), but there really isn’t much here for the grown-ups. So the overall impression is that this is a spaghetti western for kids, with added fairytale characters. Seeing Puss’ back-story is entertaining enough, but entirely non-essential. The plotting is episodic - essentially the film is series of loosely interlinked mini-adventures. But the plot is stretched too thin over the ninety-minute running-time.

The screenplay by Tim Wheeler is big on action, but short on plot. Puss in Boots is trying to clear his name, while getting embroiled in a heist with his former best friend and current nemesis, Humpty Alexander Dumpty. This leads to a number of small missions, as the participants try to get everything they need to pull off the heist, but it doesn’t hang together in a very convincing whole. There just isn’t enough at stake. The hero also falls for fellow thief Kitty Softpaws. Wheeler may have benefited from the input of other writers, who may have been able to knit all of the mini-adventures together. They might also have brought a greater variety of comedy to the production, as the film is heavily reliant on slapstick. A few more gags for the grown-ups would have made this more of a family film than a kids’ movie. Although the episodic structure of the narrative means there is little chance of children getting bored, it may make it harder for adults to remain engaged. I suspect the romance was intended to draw older viewers in, but I would have happily sacrificed it and the nonsensical last-minute twist for some more laughs.

The characterisation is relatively simplistic. Puss in Boots is a loveable rogue, who means well, but is apt to get caught up in all sorts of crazy schemes. Love interest Kitty Softpaws is more than a match for the hero – as capable a thief as he could ever be, as strong a personality and as charming as the main protagonist. Humpty Alexander Dumpty is a sentient egg suffering from existential angst. But it’s difficult to know whether we’re meant to empathise with him or boo him as a baddie. We see him being bullied for being different, suggesting he’s a tragic figure. But he’s also prone to betraying those closest to him, making his actions that of a villain. So overall he’s just an unsatisfying character. Jack and Jill are hillbilly second-string bad guys, who are cruel and cunning, although Jack is also obsessed with having a baby, in an odd comic twist. The dialogue is suitable, but there is a dearth of memorable one-liners.

The voice cast includes a number of big names. Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the titular character, bringing warmth and dashing heroism to the role. I get the impression the actor doesn’t take himself too seriously and he sounds as though he’s having fun. Salma Hayek is well-cast as Kitty Softpaws, purring her way through the lines. Zach Galafianakis is oddly nebbish as the voice of Humpty Dumpty, but doesn’t quite have the acid in his voice to convince as a hardened criminal. Meanwhile Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris prove an able double-act as Jack and Jill, adding to the sense of the movie as a spaghetti western and animator Bob Persichetti steals every scene he’s in with a single word.

Composer Henry Jackman goes for a Spanish/Mexican feel with the score. He uses flamenco-style percussion, warm, mariachi brass, maracas, accordion and flourishing Spanish guitar at various points throughout the film. He also throws in plenty of swirling brass and string arrangements for the action sequences, softer acoustic guitar and string motifs for romance and stabbing brass and tense strings for danger. Many of the arrangements sound as though they could easily accompany a “Zorro” movie, which means they aren’t that original, but are appropriate to both the production and its star.

“Puss in Boots” is a reasonable kids’ film that features solid animation work, direction and voice performances. But it doesn’t have the script to match up to the visuals. The narrative is flimsy, the comedy one-note and the characterisation is slightly disappointing. It isn’t a bad film, it just isn’t as good as it could have been. It’s one to plonk the kids down in front of when there’s nothing else on TV. But accompanying adults may find themselves nodding off.

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Comments on this review

  • jonathanb published 30/01/2013
    Like most spin-offs it compared poorly to the source films, but it was still quite enjoyable and Banderas sounded like he was having fun.
  • Mildew82 published 22/01/2013
    I was really looking forward to this one, so it was a bit of a let down - there were a couple of very funny moments, but as you say few and far between - superb review!
  • hogsflesh published 22/01/2013
    Not sure the world needs a Shrek spin-off.
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Product Information : Puss In Boots (DVD)

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Swashbuckling feline Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas) fights to save his town with the help of Kitty Softpaws (voice of Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (voice of Zach Galifianakis).

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