Sunday, February 17, 2013

Puss in Boots

The character of the suave, Pepe Le Pew-like womanizing feline Puss in Boots was introduced in the second SHREK movie some years back. The films in that franchise (four in all) grew more tiresome with each entry, but Puss was always a delight, by the fourth go-round having amusingly gone a bit to seed, complete with huge belly. But Puss had other big adventures before he met the big ogre and friends.

PUSS IN BOOTS (2011) informs us that Humpty Dumpty and Puss grew up together in a Mexican orphanage. Things were always rough for Humpty, an easy target for ridicule. Puss (again voiced by Antonio Banderas) saves Humpty (Zach Galifiankis) from the taunts of Little Boy Blue, and they become inseparable friends, even taking a blood oath. But one day, after Puss saves the life of a villager from a charging bull, Puss is, um, lionized while Humpty is thrown to the margins. The famous egg-shaped character is observed here to be a bad seed, a thief, even.  After Humpty later dupes Puss into a bank robbery, their friendship is severed.

Much of the plot of PUSS IN BOOTS involves the search for 3 magic beans. Puss meets Kitty Softpaws (voice of Salma Hayek) one night as both unsuccessfully try to wrestle them from an evil Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris, having a whale of a time with their parts), who plan to ascend the famous beanstalk you remember from childhood literature and get to a magic castle, where they will steal the Golden Goose. On this eventful journey, Puss and Kitty will of course fall in love. Puss will be also imprisoned and meet the Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk" fame, who informs him of great peril certain to befall the feline's hometown when a highly enraged momma of the Goose will come for her child, setting the foundation for the film's (kinda scary) climax.

So here's a spin-off that actually merited a big-screen treatment (PIB was originally planned for straight-to-homevideo). Director Chris Miller makes his outing charming, clever, cute, heartwarming. Henry Jackman's Latin-tinged score is zesty.  While the irreverence and ingenuity is intact, overall the humor is never as crass as in the SHREK series, and the storyline here does not overlap with the earlier films.  Puss himself is such as dashing character, and Banderas gets to unleash a brio that would invite accusations of hamminess had he performed a live character this way. I'm sure that is why many actors love to do animated pics. Cat lovers should especially enjoy this movie.

I still have to wonder if the Gingerbread Man, who got some of the biggest laughs in the SHREK films, could sustain at least a 75 minute feature of his own...........

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