Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: Just A Delight

By | January 30, 2023
The Last Wish

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has no business being as good as it is. The movie was barely on my radar until I heard it had an Oscar nomination. The original two Shrek movies are classics of the modern age with more meme power than any other franchise, except maybe Star Wars, but I had forgotten that Puss in Boots got its own movie way back in 2011. It seemed it had to be a cash grab reviving it after all this time. And I assumed it would be a little childish or have some nothing plot.

Instead, it made me almost cry, smirk multiple times, and got a chuckle out of me—and it’s difficult to make me audibly laugh. The movie earns that Oscar nomination and is something you must see to believe how good it actually is.

And let’s start with the big change for the franchise. The Last Wish is animated in what I’ll call “Spiderverse Style.” Obviously, that’s a little reductive, and it’s not the only movie to use a similar animation method, but it’s hard to ignore the comparison. The animation in The Last Wish is slightly slower than expected, with the frames almost visible, while allowing for a great sense of momentum and impact. It paradoxically evokes stop motion while being extremely smooth. The first fight scene in the movie is so visually stunning, so well-choreographed, and has such a sense of weight and perspective it knocked away all my cynicism.

And then it doubled down on being much more than expected by having an interesting look at death. One thing that the Shrek movies do so well is warp fairytales and fairytale logic in interesting ways to make it feel more personal. Puss having literally nine lives makes enough sense you can accept it right off the bat—and then the movie just keeps exploring layers of what that means. I don’t want to spoil it, and I don’t recall if they talk about it in the other movies, but Puss’ charismatic outlaw personality makes so much sense, given this information. It allows him to have a new, satisfying arc.

But this theme has one other major function: it gives us a new character. A character so striking I heard about him well before I watched The Last Wish. And rightfully so: he’s terrifying. I’m amazed they allowed “The Wolf” in a movie that’s got a PG rating. His whistle, his blazing red eyes, and how scared Puss is whenever he shows up are straight horror. Sure, the “twist” is so easy to guess that it’s basically not a mystery, but that doesn’t detract even a little from the sheer screen presence of this monster. I always forget that the Shrek series trusts its audience to handle dark topics like death, and here it uses that willingness to take a relatively basic plot about a magic wish and make it have stakes. It makes you care about who wins fights because people can die horribly. Hell, there’s on-screen blood in The Last Wish. Now, to clarify, I don’t think media needs to be serious all the time—and this movie has a ton of humor and goofiness to offset the menace—but as an older viewer, it helped keep me in the story. It made me want to know what happens next.

Well, that, and The Last Wish is also oddly emotional outside its exploration of mortality (though every plot line plays at least a little into that core). For a film this short, it’s shockingly layered, with two parallel stories about found family. The main one involves a new character: Perrito. Who’s made to be cute and likable, much like SOX from Lightyear, and it works extremely well. I’m usually not a fan of the by-the-numbers “ball of sunshine wears down a cynical character” plot progression, especially when it’s played for mostly comedy, but The Last Wish is an expert in its tropes and does each of its story beats with such sincerity it works. It works so well that it almost made me cry.

And I could go on with my praise, really. Gush about the beautiful settings, the simplistic but internally consistent magic system, and how it has timeless humor that uses no immediately obvious pop culture references. I could talk about the high number of great characters and the snappy dialog—there’s so much to praise in almost every scene. But this article can’t go on forever. And, yes, The Last Wish has issues, and they detract when they rise up. The plot’s simplistic and predictable, and it’s got a few jokes that are questionable, possibly problematic, or unnecessarily juvenile, but the bulk of this movie’s presentation and writing is on the same level as a Pixar movie. Shrek’s last few outings had a lot of issues, and the whole franchise felt over-saturated, but this is a fresh start. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is proof of how entertaining this world really is.

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