The opening scene of "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" involves the titular swashbuckling feline behind a red curtain hearing the crowd chant his name ready to give the audience a show. It's almost a metaphor for the film itself as it's one that DreamWorks has been trying to get off the ground for over a decade. After the "Shrek" series ended in 2010, DreamWorks gave the sidekick his own spinoff film in 2011 that I did enjoy and shortly afterward announced a sequel. And yet, nothing came of it and the film struggled in development for eleven years. But now, after an eleven-year wait, Puss is back in a new sequel and it's a film that is well worth the decade-long wait. This film is a ton of fun and another winner from DreamWorks that will go down as being one of their very best sequels.
Years after saving the town of San Ricardo from the destruction of the golden goose, the outlaw Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has been basking in the glory of being an outlaw and enjoying the spotlight quite a bit. However, after an accident involving a bell, Puss is told by the doctor that he is down to the last of his nine lives and is suggested to retire to a home for cats run by Mama Luna (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) where he soon meets a nameless therapy dog he calls Perrito (Harvey Guillén). Soon enough though, Puss overhears that Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) are after a magic wishing star and decides to set off to find it, inadvertently running into his old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) in the process. Hoping to find the wishing star, Puss, Kitty, and Perrito set off into the dark forest to try to make the wish in a race against Goldilocks and the Bears, the greedy pie owner Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney), and a bounty hunter wolf (Wagner Moura) after Puss.
As I previously stated, this was a sequel that DreamWorks has been trying to crack for almost eleven years, and like so many other previous animated films that ended up on the shelf, I figured that the adventure with Puss would be restricted to just a standalone film and was quite surprised when they revived the film a few years ago. Fortunately, I'm happy to confirm that this film really is one that was worth the long wait as they really nailed it here. I did enjoy the first film, but I thought it was just simply a good movie. This sequel though is great. The story is a lot of fun and one that truly is exciting and suspenseful. One major problem that the first film had was that it had scenes that went on way too long which included a ridiculous dance-off between Puss and Kitty and I wanted more focus on the adventure. This film though is fully on the adventure and director Joel Crawford keeps the pacing tight and controlled. It was so much fun to watch and has a story that's filled with a lot of exciting action sequences between the heroes and the villains as well as some darker moments that really make you care for them too. It also helps that the film has a layer of unpredictability to it involving the map that the trio uses to get to the wishing star through the forest. Whoever touches the map gets a much different path which has the world around them change drastically based on whoever held it last with different obstacles being in the way whether they be sweet and simple to a bit more complex and challenging. It also just happens to be quite funny as well with plenty of jokes that made me laugh pretty hard. I'm not gonna dare spoil some of the jokes here, but I'll just say that the crowd I was with was laughing their heads off alongside me and it was a total blast to watch. As far as the animation goes, this film goes down the same path that DreamWorks' previous film "The Bad Guys" took with a more stylized route and it's quite a spectacle.
The filmmakers decided to make the animation in this film look a lot more like a painting and it's quite beautiful with the backgrounds really standing out in the dark forest that the trio comes across. Even the character animation stands out at times with the filmmakers playing around with limited frame rate during the action sequences, particularly the finale which is a spectacle in and of itself. It's quite possibly some of the best animation you will see this entire year and the whole film was just amazing to view. That leads me to the characters and I really love almost all of them. Antonio Banderas slips back into his role of Puss like he never left and he is once again so much fun as the swashbuckling feline. They really gave him a lot more than just trying to clear his name here as with his eight lives gone, he's pretty much closer to death and has to consider if being the swashbuckling hero people have been cherishing him as is worth it. His chemistry with Kitty gets a bit more complex too as both of them are at ends with each other when they meet up again and the explanation really works. Perrito is a pretty funny comic relief who boasts some of the film's biggest laughs and is always cheerful without getting annoying. That leads me to the villains and I'll start off by talking about the best ones first. My favorite was easily the bounty hunter wolf after Puss who might just go on to be one of the very best villains DreamWorks has ever created. This character genuinely creeped me out with his demeaning appearance, particularly a whistle he uses when he's near that's similar to the Harmonica from "Once Upon a Time in the West". I loved this villain so much and the twist he has was perfect. Goldilocks and the Three Bears were a ton of fun too with them being more like a crazy family and they also have an arc that really hits too and gives kids a good message. The third villain of the film though, Big Jack Horner, was terrible. I thought his character didn't work nearly at all compared to the other two and was pretty weak and annoying with his backstory being particularly lame and his plan with the wish being even worse. Apart from the one scene where he was introduced, I think DreamWorks should've axed him from the film. Still though, the other characters in the film helped really make it work.
"Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" is a terrific sequel that's a ton of fun with a story that's darker and hilarious, animation that's beautiful and stunning, and characters that are well-developed and memorable. Even if you weren't a huge fan of the first film, this is a film I still highly recommend you check out. It's a ton of fun and an adventure I cannot wait to watch again.