Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) Review
IT'S SAFE to say that Puss in Boot's first solo adventure in 2011 was not well-received, garnering average criticism from audiences and reviewers alike (myself included). But over a decade later, the feisty feline returns to produce not only the best Puss in Boots film, but the best instalment in the Shrek franchise in nearly 20 years.
The legendary outlaw Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) discovers he has burned through eight of his nine lives, making the feline question his mortality and ability to live up to his own legend. But after hearing about the mythical Last Wish, a comet which can restore his lives, Puss must set out to claim the powerful treasure; unbeknownst that other criminals such as Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), Jack Horner (John Mulaney), and Puss' former companion, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), are all chasing the Last Wish as well.
Despite being a simple tale of multiple factions chasing a mythic artefact, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, surprisingly, delves much deeper into the meaning of one's mortality, whether you can be too careless or too careful when living your life, and the pressure of living up to expectations, or in this case, your legend. And screenplay writer Paul Writer could have softened the amount of dark themes throughout, instead deciding to emphasise the morbid elements of Puss' impending demise by having the physical embodiment of Death (Wagner Moura) follow Puss throughout his adventure, making the feisty feline question whether his potentially-final journey is worth the risk to regain his previous eight lives. By adding this element of mortality, it truly does put a weight of danger on our main protagonist, as unlike previous Shrek/Puss in Boots films, Puss could fail his journey as he continually doubts himself and his ability to live up to his potential, making it the perfect time to add some loveable side characters to aid him.
Animated films nowadays often have a problem where at least one character is portrayed as straight up comedic relief, becoming oversaturated as a result, but remarkably, The Last Wish does not contain a single character that I disliked as they all felt integral to the plot's progression. Antonio Banderas as Puss and Salma Hayek as Kitty are both remarkable in their respective roles, particularly Banderas who delivers a shockingly impassioned performance portraying a cat on their last life, encapsulating the pain and anxiety one would feel when they've essentially been given a death sentence. Florence Pugh was a near-perfect choice to play Goldilocks, especially when the fairy-tale is now portrayed as a crime family. Her progression throughout the movie becomes more impassioned to the point where they develop into more of anti-heroes as appose to villains. And speaking of, John Mulaney as Jack Horner and Wagner Moura as Death respectively arguably deliver the best vocal performances in the movie, being written and portrayed perfectly while also being unlikeable in their one ways. Horner is supposed to be more of a comedic, over-the-top villain whereas Death, as the name suggests, isn't played for laughs, managing to achieve genuine levels of fear, obviously not to the point of actually being afraid, but enough to be impressed considering it's still a PG animated DreamWorks movie.
It feels weird to say Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is as good, if not better, than Into The Spider-Verse, but I'd be lying if I said otherwise. Phenomenal vocal performances, an engaging and genuinely-well told story, and visuals that rival the flamboyance and excitement seen in some of animation's most beautiful films, The Last Wish is the best animated feature film of 2022 and is easily the best movie in the Shrek universe since 2004. Don't let its bombastic colour palate or light-hearted characters fool you: The Last Wish is the epitome of why animated movies aren't just for kids.