By Henry Fisher | January 30, 2023
In the cold month of January, my friend and I were face-to-face with three sequels – “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” Beyond the fact that all three had no two in their title, each one offered something different. The “Avatar” sequel was, I’m sure, a wonderful display of CGI and sits currently as the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time. “Wakanda Forever” has been widely regarded as one of the best movies of Marvel’s fourth phase.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a sequel to the “Shrek” spinoff about a talking cat wearing boots. Yeah, of course we saw “Puss in Boots,” why wouldn’t you?
Both my friend and I enjoy animation, and rumors had been floating around that the movie was actually really good. Honestly, I’m glad I did see it. With the theater to ourselves, we got to enjoy one of my favorite movies of 2022 (I saw it in 2023, but shhh).
The idea that a sequel to a spinoff of “Shrek” would be amazing is hilarious, yet here we are.
First, I can’t go any further without talking about one of the best aspects of the film – the animation. Dreamworks has really stepped up their game, taking cues from “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” to do what many animation studios haven’t in the past – fully utilize their medium. The 3D models in “The Last Wish” are textured with a beautiful “painted over” aesthetic, with vivid colors that make characters pop. It is truly a beautiful film.
My favorite part is the tight writing. Six villains are featured in this movie, which would be far too many in most stories. “The Last Wish” balances them well, making each distinct. There are a variety of motivations, characterizations, and designs that make each villain a pleasure to watch.
The heroes themselves are also fantastic. All three of the heroes have their own journeys which are incredible to see unfold. The unnamed dog (often referred to as “Dog,” “Perro,” or “Perrito,” played by Harvay Guillen), takes the place of the naive, persistent character of the trio, and was not annoying. Oftentimes these naive characters can lead to a so-called idiot plot, where their foolishness leads to shenanigans that makes the audience dislike the character. Perrito is naive and persistent, yes, but only when the plot calls upon it. He doesn’t exist as a simple one-note character like many others of the archetype.
That about finishes it for my spoiler–free thoughts. Join me below, if you dare.
Death (Wagner Moura) is a super cool character. He also creates a far more mature plotline than I expected, with Puss’s (Antonio Banderas) journey in the film being his escape from Death. It puts fear into Puss, being the catalyst for greater change within that character. And Death’s whistle? Fantastic. It's an iconic piece of the film.
I was incredibly surprised by two moments in “The Last Wish.” One occurs during the introduction of Death, where he actually draws blood from Puss. I did not expect that to come out of this movie, but it helped draw even more attention to Death as a character. The second was a panic attack that Puss has in the middle of the film. It was great to see Dreamworks not holding back for this film.
I’m going to slightly complain about one group of villains in the film, which is Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman), and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo). Don’t get me wrong, they're great. I love the setting of the “Shrek” franchise, with all its takes on characters from folklore and fairy tales. They just don’t shine as much as the other villains, with a relatively predictable “the real family is the one you made along the way” kind of an arc. That’s not terrible, but not as strong as Death or Jack Horner (John Mulaney).
On the topic of Jack Horner, it was nice to see an irredeemable villain. In times where every villain is really an anti-hero or whatever, it was refreshing. It was quite entertaining when he first appeared and I realized John Mulaney had snuck his way into the movie.
Overall, I would rate “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” a 9/10. It is a fun film in this land of sequels, one that hopefully paves the path for other animation studios to follow. Follow your heart, and see the little cat man try and evade Death (and taxes).
The taxes part is a joke, for legal reasons.