It has been quite some time since we could say with complete confidence that an animated full-length feature film was the highlight of its opening weekend at the box-office, but such is the case for Dreamworks Animation's Puss in Boots,
a spin-off of the Shrek
series that is far livelier and far more entertaining than one could have ever expected. Of course, it should be noted that the opening weekend of Puss in Boots
is dotted with such cinematic mediocrity as Anonymous
and In Time.
Puss in Boots
is actually a prequel to the Shrek
films, though it has a decidedly different tone and look to it. It's important to note, as well, that Puss in Boots
is one of the rare films this year where the 3-D animation is actually worth it. The film's animation is richly layered and the action sequences, abundant in quantity, are also of tremendous quality. While the film is not up to Pixar's best, it certainly surpasses this year's Cars
sequel and it wouldn't be surprising to see it mentioned during the 2011 awards season.
The script from a team of a writers doesn't cover any new ground and certainly doesn't reach the emotional resonance of a Pixar film, but Dreamworks is very much establishing itself as just a notch below the Pixar films with such recent fare as How to Train Your Dragon
and the Kung Fu Panda
Antonio Banderas is marvelous as Puss, bringing to his vocal work a vibrance and energy that would make you literally able to envision the action even if you weren't looking at the screen. Banderas is suave, debonaire, funny and simply everything you want Puss to be. The actor has had quite the year between this appearance and his appearance in Almodovar's controversial The Skin I Live In.
Salma Hayek is perfect as his foil and friend, Kitty Softpaws. Visually, the two enjoy a few really wonderful scenes that range from well choreographed sword fights to genuinely entertaining dance numbers. The story takes us back to Puss's childhood and his friendship with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), whose contributions to the film include one of the naughtier jokes to ever make its way into a kids' film (that it's almost assured the kids will never get).
Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris are here voicing Jack and Jill, whose magic beans become the target of a theft attempt by Humpty and Puss.
Director by Chris Miller, who also helmed the unfortunate Shrek the Third, Puss in Boots
unquestionably far surpasses just about anything that anyone could have expected from a film birthed out of a four film series. Even the most optimistic and devoted fan had to wonder if Puss in Boots
would be watchable. Surprisingly, it's one of the animated highlights of 2011.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic