“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” Review

An unexpectedly funny and moving children’s movie, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a must-see.


Noah McBrien, Staff Writer

The titular feline, once again played by Antonio Banderas in a silky Spanish accent for “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” saves the day as usual in the vein of a cat-sized Robin Hood, pouring the gold of a greedy, corrupt official into the hands of the poor masses. But, this is abruptly brought to an end by a moss giant waking from its slumber, which Puss beats in thrilling, fast-paced fashion. The Last Wish starts off on a note we all expect.

But, in triumphing over the giant, Puss loses a life that turns out to have been his eighth, leaving him with only one life left. The doctor’s orders are no more adventures. But Puss foolishly holds onto his legend until faced with Death, voiced by Wagner Moura, a haunting and starkly colored wolf with red eyes, a black cloak, and two intimidating sickles. After being outdueled by Death, Puss runs for his life, and is forced into retirement, hiding in a cat lady’s refuge. 

Puss’ once great-life, now reduced to cat food and naps, is revitalized when he hears of a wishing star he could use to regain his lost lives. With a happy-go-lucky therapy dog named Peritto (Harvey Guillen) and his resentful old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) in tow, Puss sets off to the forest where the wish-granting star lies. 

Not far behind the trio are the fairy-tale-turned-crime-family Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo), who provide comic relief and touching scenes. I found that the latter were at times tearful and other times awkwardly referencing the nursery rhyme, disrupting their flow.

Following our heroes, as well, is the power-hungry and merciless Jack Horner (John Mulaney), whose bottomless bag of surprises gives us a Jimmy Stewart-inspired Conscience Cricket, providing back-and-forths between him and Jack that make for the best running gag in the movie.

At times, the jokes undercut the point of Puss’ journey, but this was ultimately rescued by the voice acting, especially that of Banderas as Puss and Hayek as Kitty. Such as when they reminisce about the past they once had, building to a heartfelt conclusion where I could hear the regret in Puss’ voice as he recounted their lost love. Delivered with seriousness and depth, the last scenes helped save the movie from an end that would’ve otherwise been tainted by the sometimes overbearing presence of the one-dimensional Jack Horner. 

The film is full of dynamic and vibrant set pieces, too, including the forest where the star lies, changing from a neon -red, -orange, and -pink flora and fauna to a grungy oozing bog to a Fortress-of-Solitude look-alike. All of these play into the scenes and action sequences that take place in them, including one that combines the suddenly shifting and breaking landscape, action, and humor, where Puss, Kitty and Perrito face off against Goldi and the three bears. Another scene captures Puss’ obsession with his past selves represented in crystal mirrors, each reflecting a different part of his ego. 

The animation style is different from DreamWorks’ dated, Shrek-derived one employed in the last Puss venture, this time doing something akin to “Into the Spider-Verse,” involving both hand-drawn and CG. It captures action and dialogue well, exemplified in the second scene of Puss escaping Death after his ego is literally broken into pieces.

Overall, the backing track complemented the movie well, but I wasn’t left with any anthems in my head. It did have its memorable moments, such as “Horner Heist,” which played while Jack Horner was on screen, giving the impression that he’s both laughable and menacing: a pudgy-faced gangster. I also enjoyed the flamenco and mariachi inspirations on many of the songs, including “A Close Shave,” during which Kitty playfully shaves Puss’ scraggly beard. However, the auto-tuning on “Fearless Hero,” a theme that began the movie, was glaring and annoying. Though, I did notice and appreciate the reincorporation of a melody from that song into tracks for other scenes, thus emphasizing the meaning of those scenes as it related to Puss’ character arc. 

Also related to his arc was a cover of “This Is the End” that plays while he’s at the cat lady’s refuge, showing that he’s gotten shamefacedly accustomed to the dull, doldrum life he’s now living after giving up his adventurous ways.  

“He’s Here For Me” sticks out, as well, in the final scene, which I won’t spoil. It will have you in awe and the hair on the back of your neck standing.

All these elements together make for an adventure that’s at moments laugh-out-loud hilarious and at others tear-jerking. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, so I advise you to see it in theaters while it’s there; that is, until the end of March this year.