[Screen It]


(2022) (voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Action/Comedy: Down to his last life, a swashbuckling feline sets out to find a fallen wishing star he hopes will resurrect his expired lives.

After defeating a giant but losing his life in the process, feline swashbuckler Puss in Boots (voice of ANTONIO BANDERAS) learns that he's down to the last of his nine lives. Accordingly, after a run-in with Wolf (voice of WAGNER MOURA) who he believes to be a bounty hunter happy to bring him in dead, Puss follows the advice of his doctor and goes to live as a regular cat in a feline sanctuary run by Mama Luna (Da'VINE JOY RANDOLPH) where he's befriended by a dog pretending to be a cat, Perrito (voice of HARVEY GUILLEN).

When Goldilocks (voice of FLORENCE PUGH) and her family of three bears -- Mama Bear (voice of OLIVIA COLMAN), Papa Bear (voice of RAY WINSTONE), and Baby Bear (voice of SAMSON KAYO) -- show up looking for him, Puss likewise believes they're bounty hunters. They don't recognize him and leave, but not before he learns they really wanted to hire him to steal a map now in the possession of Jack Horner (voice of JOHN MULANEY).

It reportedly will lead to a fallen star that will grant a single wish, and Puss wants to find that to get back the rest of his lives. But with others also wanting that star -- including his former lover, Kitty Softpaws (voice of SALMA HAYEK PINAULT) -- Puss must go back into swashbuckler mode, thus putting him in danger of losing his last life.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Having cohabitated with cats for most of my nearly sixty laps around that really bright thing up in the sky, I can say that they're fun, loving, and inquisitive creatures that can simultaneously entertain and drive you crazy. In fact, I have one lying at my feet right now as I write this, while her brother is off somewhere, likely getting into mischief.

He does that so much so that he's probably lucky he has that feline gift where they manage to take advantage of those extra lives they've been given. His started the first week we had him as a kitten when he took a long fall down our steps and walked away without a scratch, up through recently falling off his cat tree and banging his head against the edge of a desk that I was certain had to have subtracted another from the initial sum of nine.

I don't know who first came up with that tally, but I'm glad it's not two or three, and it would appear a similar thought crossed the minds of screenwriters Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow when they penned "Puss In Boots: The Last Wish." It's the decade-plus in the making sequel to the original PnB film, and the fifth feature film in which the title character has appeared.

With him once again voiced by Antonio Banderas, the film -- directed by Joel Crawford -- immediately jumps into both a big action set piece and the film's main storyline where our Zorro meets Indiana Jones feline saves the day, only to lose his life in the process. Having those nine lives, he bounces back and thinks nothing of it until he's reminded that he's down to his last one.

Accordingly, and after eluding a wolf bounty hunter (Wagner Moura) who wants him more dead than alive, he reluctantly takes the advice that he should hang up his hat, sword, and yes, those boots, and go live out his remaining days at a cat shelter. There, as a Mexican-inspired cover of The Doors' "The End" plays and he laments, "This is where dignity goes to die," he lets himself go, chowing down with the other kitties and using the very public litter box.

He thinks his time is up when Goldilocks and the Three Bears (voiced by Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) show up looking for him, but as he hides, he learns they're really after a fallen wishing star, much like Jack Horner (John Mulaney) who's anything but little or sitting in a corner.

Realizing he could use that for himself to get his lives back, he sets out -- with an unwelcome canine assistant later named Perrito (Harvey Guillén) -- to find that celestial body, but must contend with others who also want it, including his former flame, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), who isn't exactly pleased to see him, what with happened to their romance in the past.

Like in the previous film and the various "Shrek" offerings, there's creative reimagining of fairy tale characters, along with action (that's distractingly presented in a different animation style than the rest of the film) and comedy, including a goofy sidekick.

Yet, and maybe it was just the way all of that reached me at the moment, it doesn't feel as fun, creative, or entertaining as in the previous entries. And much of it sort of takes a backseat to the deeper thematic elements regarding death and both enjoying and living one's only life to the fullest before, you know, time's up.

That might sound a bit deep and maybe even depressing for what's essentially a kids' movie, and I suppose it sort of is. But kudos to all involved in tackling such matters in an accessible way that's not too much of a downer or heavy-handed so that it can foster some healthful conversations between parents and their kids, all while entertaining them along the way.

Not as good as its immediate processor but enjoyable enough, "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" will at least make you appreciate your kitty and its bounty of lives while they're still accessible. The film rates as a 6 out of 10.

Posted December 21, 2022

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