Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) – Reel Review

Director: Joel Crawford, Januel Mercado | Runtime: 1h 42mins | Animation, Adventure, Fantasy

When Puss in Boots realises he’s burned through 8 of his 9 lives, he embarks on an adventure to find the mystical “Last Wish”. 

After a few disappointing sequels and spin-offs fans longed for the days of Shrek and Shrek 2, when the franchise was at the height of its popularity. It seemed like nothing would recapture that magic but, lo and behold, in swings Puss in Boots: The Last Wish with a fresh energy that not only revitalises the Puss in Boots character, but may very well be one the most enjoyable action films of the year. 

The new kineticism found in the action is instantly noticeable in the surging heroism of the film’s opening sequence. As Puss defeats enemy after enemy, swinging from a bell tower to defeat a monster, it reminds you of a similar energy that Lord and Miller perfected with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – although Puss in Boots finds its own voice from the central character and its sun-kissed backdrop. 

The world in which Puss embarks on his adventure is rendered beautifully, but as the film falls more and more into the fantastical, the dusty Western motifs quickly change and the wilder elements of the world shine through. It’s here, in a mythical “Dark Forest”, where all the characters, enemies and allies, are faced with their own thematic challenges – but it’s Puss’ struggles with his own mortality that make this film far deeper than it has any right to be. 

After years of living on the edge Puss in Boots has recklessly lost 8 of his 9 lives. It isn’t until he’s met by a mysterious Bounty Hunter that the fear kicks in, leading him on an existential journey – challenging legacy vs. happiness while also coming to terms with the inevitable end we all must face. It’s ironic that such a drastically different film of the same year, Martin McDonagh’s Banshees of Inisherin, challenges similar themes of legacy and what we leave when we die – but in a way it speaks volumes about the universality of the message and how despite being so different in audience and tone, the themes really can strike a cord no matter the style. 

As Puss, old flame Softpaws and new friend Perrito head further and further into the “Dark Forest”, hot on their tails are the enemies made along the way. As well as the aforementioned Bounty Hunter tracking Puss’ every step, they are being hunted by Goldilocks and the three bears (voiced by an all-star British cast) and Jack Horner. While Horner is more throwaway as the irredeemable evil, it’s Goldilocks’ narrative, of finding a ‘normal’ family instead of the bears, that brings even more warmth and togetherness to an already wholesome story. 

Much like Soul did two years ago, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish understands its audience while being unafraid to discuss a more poignant story about death, and what we leave behind. Its challenging themes sit wonderfully against the energetic animation style and despite the link to the Shrek universe still playing a big part in its characters, this film deserves to stand on its own four paws.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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