Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – El Gato is a Gotta Watch


Jakob Caisip, Staff Writer

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: El Gato’s a Gotta Watch

We know and we love Shrek: the legendary onion-layered ogre holding perhaps the soundest claim to the title of Generation Z’s mascot. Four feature films, an annual Shrekfest, a Broadway musical, multiple junior novels, video games, and countless straight-to-DVD/streaming spinoffs for diehard fans constitute his domain. But the daunting cultural phenomenon of Shrek fandom goes beyond mere nostalgia. To be a fan of Shrek means appreciating a cutting, yet unjaded sense of humor that elevates the familiar fairy tales and nursery rhymes of one’s youth by deconstructing them for the archetypes and values they represent and rebuilding them with intertextual, deeper meanings and themes: an experience not unlike that conferred by John Gardner’s Grendel.

What better step forward for the franchise, then, but to wean us off what is undoubtedly Mike Myers’ greatest acting role in order to take a sincere look into the rich inner life of one of its most beloved secondary characters? Sadly, the bold creative decision of a stand-alone Donkey spinoff will likely not see its time until at least phase 6 or 7 of the Shrek Cinematic Universe. Instead, the franchise’s foray into this decade is represented by Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, released last December.

Ten years after the events of Puss in Boots (2011), Puss (Antonio Banderas) is on the last of his nine feline lives, and a wolf bounty hunter (Wagner Moura) is tracking him down to claim it. In order to get them all back, he must go on a dangerous excursion into the Dark Forest to find the Wishing Star, with the help of a small dog known as Perrito (Harvey Guillén) and old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). But he’s not the only one shooting for the Star: storybook adversaries Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney), a pastry mogul and imposing collector of magical items, and Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), who forms a Cockney-accented outlaw gang along with the three bears, each have wishes of their own and will stop at nothing to achieve them. Will Puss be able to make the most of his life and face his biggest fears head-on?

The Last Wish draws its focus away from strictly lampooning classic children’s literature by using a standard chase-the-MacGuffin plot, placing more emphasis on the unique and complex motivations of its characters. In a world packed with overt winking references to fairy tales and nursery rhymes, it’s a note of restraint that Last Wish introduces only two new ones, cleverly recontextualized to fit the plot – reminiscent of movies by Guy Ritchie or the Coen brothers. And by making the braggadocious and arrogant Puss aware of his own mortality, the protagonist is given character development and emotional depth as he changes from a roguish picaro to an existential, thoughtful figure – while retaining the charismatic personality for which he’s known.

The art style is astonishingly elaborate, even brilliant, in its conception. It follows in the tradition of a studio rooted in its iconic late-2000s CGI aesthetic while updating it for a post-Spider-Verse era of cinema that embraces the quirky, expressive potential of animation. This is a world that switches seamlessly between dynamic fluidity (undoubtedly influenced to a degree by anime) and jerky “on twos” movement, and blends CGI detail with painterly impressionism so naturally that you likely wouldn’t notice if you weren’t actively looking for it. One can only imagine the degree to which the rest of Dreamworks’ repertoire will be potentially visually refined by a similar revamping of its signature style.

The Last Wish itself, unfortunately, suffers from a second-act slump and an uninspired plot, but more than makes up for it with its sincere message of gratitude and cooperation and its dazzling art direction, foreshadowing a positive future for the series with the upcoming Shrek 5 in the midst.  4/5