Puss in Boots – Puss in Boots (2011)
Directed by: Chris Miller | 90 minutes | animation, comedy, adventure | Original voice cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro, Rich Dietl, Ryan Crego, Tom Wheeler, Conrad Vernon, Tom McGrath, Bob Joles, Latifa Ouaou, Robert Persichetti Jr ., Chris Miller, Jessica Schulte, Mike Mitchell, Nina Barry, Rebecca Davis, Sergio Bruna | Dutch voice cast: Jon van Eerd, Anna Drijver, Charly Luske, Jeroen van der Boom, Karin Bloemen, Tanja Jess, Stanley Burleson
The European fairy tales from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are still an important source of inspiration for artists, writers and film makers. The oeuvre of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm still appeals to the imagination and the ‘Fairy Tales of Mother Goose’ by the Frenchman Charles Perrault is still rock solid. Perrault’s work was an important source of inspiration for the ‘Shrek’ series of films, with which DreamWorks managed to attract millions of moviegoers. Now that the story of the petulant but good-natured ogre seems to have been told after four films, DreamWorks had to look for a new fairytale hero to fill the halls with. They didn’t have to look far, because ‘Shrek’ has plenty of interesting sidekicks. Where you might expect that Donkey would get the credit, Puss in Boots is the first to come up with a spin-off. The cat version of Zorro stands firm enough in his boots to carry his own movie with brilliance.
The attraction of Puss lies mainly in the charmer image that the red-haired hangover has and his sultry Spanish accent (Antonio Banderas was rarely better). Puss is a rebel, a pirate, a swashbuckler as the Americans call it so beautifully. At the same time, he can also be very cute and sweet, if he puts on big, questioning eyes. With his inexhaustible charm, he is irresistible. Also for the females, we see directly in the opening scene. ‘Puss in Boots 3D’ (2011) delves into the past of the mysterious red four-legged friend. As a kitten he was left on the doorstep of a sweet lady, she raised him in her orphanage, where he was an outsider. Just like Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), an egg he befriends. But where Puss earns more and more respect after a famous heroic act, Humpty gives in more to his dark side. When he wants to rob a bank, he drags Puss into his criminal activities. They are caught, but Puss manages to escape. From now on he lives his life as an outlaw.
Years later, Puss runs into his old friend again. Although he doesn’t really want anything to do with him, it’s the seductive kitty Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) who brings the two back together. Together they decide to fulfill their former dream – to find the magic beans that lead to the goose that lays golden eggs and lives high in the clouds. They first have to deal with the criminal and not very gentle couple Jack and Jill (Billy-Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). Like the ‘Shrek’ series, ‘Puss in Boots’ gives a modern twist to classic fairy tales and does so with a lot of humor and wit. The nice thing is that many jokes are aimed at an adult target group, but of course the young viewers are not forgotten either. ‘Puss’ is typically one of those movies where parent and child can laugh at the same time, but for completely different reasons. Beautiful scenes are those in an underground (illegal?) cat bar and the preceding impressive chase across the Spanish rooftops, in which Puss tries to trump his new rival. Puss’ childhood memories of the time when he was still a kitten are also beautiful to see, albeit somewhat long-lasting. DreamWorks is hardly inferior to Pixar when it comes to animations; the cats look fluffy and cuddly. The 3D technique creates extra space and depth, with the chase scene mentioned earlier as a textbook example.
Where ‘Puss in Boots’ starts strong – not taking itself too seriously – unfortunately the stops break in the third act. A film with such a charming protagonist doesn’t need all that over the top spectacle at all, but scriptwriter Tom Wheeler and director Chris Miller apparently thought it necessary to close with a lot of fanfare. It’s one of the reasons why ‘Puss in Boots’ isn’t the absolute hit it could have been. The other reason is Humpty Dumpty, a villainous character who doesn’t show up at all, no matter how well Zack Galifianakis tries his best on voice and diction and how lifelike his eggshell looks. With a more appealing villain and a slightly more balanced third act, “Puss in Boots” could have become the best animated film of the year. But thanks to the irresistible, temperamental red hangover, the nice winks and witticisms and the beautiful animations, ‘Puss’ deserves a very big pass. Because despite its flaws, this is highly recommended for the whole family.