He had us with a single look. Six years later, Puss in Boots has his own movie. Yes, the swashbuckling, lithario pussy cat is back, only this time he’s a sidekick to no-one AND he’s in 3D. The film's title character is hitting our screens in his fourth outing from the DreamWorks Animation house, the same people behind last year's wildly successful ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. Previously seen in the three 'Shrek' sequels, this prequel (or “origin” film for the “they’re not toys they’re action figures” crowd) is a standalone film and long overdue for the 'Shrek' series’ most resonant and irresistible character.
In Puss’ tale, directed by Chris Miller (Shrek The Third), we discover that he was an orphan befriended by the only other outcast and fairytale creature in the orphanage, Humpty Alexander Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis). These BFFs soon become brothers-in-arms whose relationship is strengthened by Humpty’s obsession with finding and acquiring the fabled three magic beans. The two boys cause youthful chaos in their home town trying to find said beans, until Puss saves a woman from a runaway bull and becomes a town hero, complete with dashing boots to accompany his newfound persona. Feelings of jealousy and betrayal cause Humpty to lure Puss into a bank robbery. They get caught and Puss runs away, becoming the outlaw we know him as today, while Humpty is left to rot in jail. Fast forward a few years and Humpty is back, with new sidekick Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), a cat burglar who’ll steal not only your purse but Puss‘ heart as well. The trio set out to make amends by stealing the recently targeted magic beans, currently in the possession of Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), who are certainly no longer the water-fetching freckle faced kids we remember as children. To make up for their past misdeeds, they must steal the beans, climb the beanstalk, capture the goose that lays the golden eggs to repay the town they stole from to be welcomed back with open arms. It’s almost too easy... I said almost.
The 'Shrek' films promoted the idea that, regardless of species or happenstance, everyone has multiple layers that make up their true selves. Puss In Boots, with its convoluted backstory and beautiful 3D visuals, gives us nothing but two-dimensional characters. Although there’s something so endearing about a cat that uses everything in his kitty bag to get what he wants, and who loves being a cat - when it comes down to it, he doesn’t quite act like one.
Puss and Kitty are a superb pairing - much like their real life counterparts Banderas and Hayek, in their third teaming together. Banderas’ lilting voices purrs its way effortlessly and irresistibly throughout the film, while Hayek’s undeniable sensuality translates purrfectly into her new feline form. The design of Humpty Dumpty errs a little on the creepy side, but the endearing vocal stylings of comedian turned 'Hangover' scene-stealer, Zach Galifianakis more than makes up for it, especially when donning a golden egg costume. Priceless.
Fans of the franchise will not be disappointed. Others, like myself, who lost faith after the third and fourth 'Shrek' films, will be pleasantly surprised. Already an international box-office smash, Australian audiences will no doubt flock to the cinemas these holidays - and as well they should.