For anyone rolling their eyes at Puss in Boots as merely yet another go-around with Shrek and the gang, don’t fret. This spin-off of the fairy-tale kitty whom wields a sword and woos a lady with the best of them isn’t Shrek Five in disguise. Puss in Boots is an adventure tale, full of whimsy, laughs and, most crucially of all, none of the pop-culture accoutrement that made that green ogre’s movies such a laborious slog.
Boots, which features none of the other Shrek characters, takes place in a world where fantasy characters still exist, but with a more Sergio Leone vibe. Puss (voiced with passionate vigor by Antonio Banderas) is on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. With a bounty on his head, Puss travels from town to town in search of safety and perhaps a nice pair of tuffs if they happen to spring forward. Additionally, Puss is pursuing the mythical magic beans of lore, even if he’s frets they are only a legend. Tipped off the beans might be in the hands of the slack-jawed yokels Jack and Jill a married pair of criminals in this telling, Puss attempts to snatch the them away, only to find another set of paws aiming for the same haul, Kitty Softpaws in fact.
Action, double-crosses, the Golden Goose and old friends (a Zach Galifianakis voiced Humpty Dumpty) all pop up as the rest of Boots play out. As a story, the movie isn’t much to celebrate. The film has four screenwriters and feels like it. The story is a routine one with few surprises or emotional heft. What Boots has in spaded though is laughs.
It clicks on a simple, practically childish formula, but it’s one that works in Boots; cats act like people, except when they act like cats. A prime example comes early, as Puss declares that he is no kitty to mess within a dank bar littered with criminals and thugs. As Puss makes his threats, his shot of cream arrives and he provides to lap it up rapidly with his tongue. The gags bring to mind Looney Toons; universal in their simplicity, yet nevertheless amusing. Suchbits are strewn through out the film. Along with Puss’ boastful nature, in which he joyfully declares his various nicknames (Frisky Two-Times is a personal favorite) and status as a “great, truly, truly great lover,” the film nimbly gets chuckles out of character instead of Miley Cyrus digs or “Lost” spoofs.
Helping matters is also director Chris Miller’s eye for visuals. Miller presents Boots with a lush color palette and with the aid of his production team comes up with some clever touches (Humpty’s “golden egg” suit is especially good).
Puss in Boots opens wide all across Seattle today.