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Years before meeting Shrek and Donkey, the adorable but tricky Puss in Boots must clear his name from all charges making him a wanted fugitive. While trying to steal magic beans from the infamous criminals Jack and Jill, the hero crosses paths with his female match, Kitty Softpaws, who leads Puss to his old friend, but now enemy, Humpty Dumpty. Memories of friendship and betrayal enlarges Puss' doubt, but he eventually agrees to help the egg get the magic beans. Together, the three plan to steal the beans, get to the Giant's castle, nab the golden goose, and clear Puss' name.Written by
Mr. Top Hat
"Puss in Boots" is a perfect example of a movie I absolutely never would have seen if I hadn't gotten a pass to a free screening. And if I had gone to see it — and, to reiterate, I wouldn't have — there's simply no way I would have seen it in 3D. But it was free, so I did. I guess you could say I had low expectations.
Some background: I loved "Shrek", I basically couldn't stand "Shrek 2", in part because I found the Puss in Boots character more annoying than charming, and I never bothered with the other "Shrek" sequels. Life is just too short. So I expected "Puss in Boots" to be, at best, tolerable, stupid, and intermittently funny. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was somewhat better than tolerable, more than intermittently funny, and actually kind of clever.
The story, as should be expected from a member of the "Shrek" lineage, plays fast and loose with fairy tale characters, plot points, and conventions. Puss, an orphaned cat now branded as an outlaw, joins forces with Humpty Dumpty, an egg of questionable intent, and Kitty Softpaws, a feline fatale, to steal the magic beans from Jack and Jill, grow a magic beanstalk, and find the golden goose of legend. Naturally, things don't go according to plan, and the plot thickens. It's pointless, but fun.
There are instances of real invention here. The first is the setting, which is sort of a medieval spaghetti western, although the western card was played better in "Rango". There are several great visual gags, like what happens to Humpty's covered wagon, and a dance fight that is easily the best part of the movie. Without giving anything away, I'll also say that, the more you think about the identity of the "monster", the funnier, and the more fitting, it becomes. However, the storytelling is sloppy at times. There's at least one plot point that is dispensed with far too quickly, and the fate of one character simply doesn't make sense. Still, it all kind of works, and the good parts are good enough to help you forget the shortcomings.
Ultimately, the movie is saved by its pacing and its animation, which, as much as I hate to admit it, is absolutely stunning in 3D. I can't recommend paying the 3D up-charge, but I will say that those who do will probably not be disappointed. This isn't a cheap, gimmicky use of 3D, but one that actual adds depth and detail. There was one particular scene, a chase that, oddly enough, reminded me of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids", where I found the use of 3D really creative. Would I pay for the 3D? Probably not, but for those looking for a 3D experience, you could do a lot worse.
"Puss in Boots" also raises the question of whether or not it's worth it to have major stars as voice actors. Actually, I take it back. This movie doesn't so much raise that question as answer it, resoundingly, with a no. As much fun as Antonio Banderas is as Puss, I'm not convinced that he brings anything to the role that a lesser known actor couldn't have brought. Salma Hayek and Zach Galifianakis are completely wasted as Kitty and Humpty. Billy Bob Thornton is a good choice as Jack, but that's largely because of the clever writing. Understand what I'm saying: I'm not being critical of these actors' work. I am being critical of the decision to cast them in a picture like this, where the most clever aspects of their characters come from the animation, not from the vocal performances. My suggestion would be to save the money needed to hire such big names, and use lesser known actors, perhaps from Broadway. That way, it would be easier for "Puss in Boots", a movie that many people will approach with a deserved amount of skepticism, to make money, and struggling actors will find more work. Believe me, the movie won't suffer from it.
This isn't high art. It's not nearly the equal of "Shrek", and it doesn't have one iota of the heart of most Pixar films, or of DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon". But at the same time, it's not bad for what it is. It's clever, witty, well-made, and fast-paced. It's nothing like a masterpiece, but as far as diversions go, it's quite diverting.
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