Review: Puss in Boots
* * * *
(G, general release)
Given the fact that the Shrek franchise was beginning to look pretty tired by the time it shuddered to a halt last year with Shrek Forever After, this spin-off could easily have been a case of flogging a dead cat. But Puss was always my favourite character in the Shrek films -- a dashing Mediterranean moggy brilliantly voiced by Antonio Banderas who never knew when he was licked.
In this hilarious and energetic animated adventure, Puss's character is fleshed out: one always suspected he was a ladies' man and, when we first meet him, he's sneaking away from the cat basket of a sultry female.
Puss is a cad, but a charming one, and also has a price on his head for reasons that will later become clear. When he hears that outlaw couple Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) have got hold of magic beans, Puss sets out to fulfill a lifelong dream by stealing them. He's beaten to it by a glamorous cat called Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), who's in league with Puss's old nemesis, Humpty Dumpty (Jack Galifianakis).
Humpty and Puss grew up together at a smalltown orphanage, and were once the best of friends. Humpty betrayed Puss, framed him for a crime and had him run out of town, but Puss now forms a tentative alliance with him in order to get his paws on those beans.
The plot of Puss in Boots is steeped in the lore of European fairytales, which it cleverly but respectfully subverts. The Humpty Dumpty character is a beautiful little creation: he's an unprincipled rogue, but his perky little face makes him impossible to dislike for long.
Galifianakis does a lovely job of voicing him, and Banderas and Hayek are well cast as the romantic leads.
It's great fun, and really cleverly written, and although it starts out like an animated spaghetti western, things get pretty surreal when Humpty and Puss climb the beanstalk and earn the enduring enmity of a giant mother goose.
Day & Night