Many people get on my case when I talk about how mean-spirited the early “Shrek” films were. The one thing people tend to forget is that Jeffrey Katzenberg got his start at Disney and the original “Shrek” was one huge satire of Disney films. It is jam-packed with so many pop culture references, a common ailment with many children’s films nowadays.
I’ll be honest here; I didn’t have high hopes for “Puss in Boots.” I personally thought that two sequels to “Shrek” were enough. Dreamworks then decided to milk this franchise for all it’s worth with a fourth film, a slew of Holiday specials, and now a spin-off. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this film. In fact, it might be just what the franchise needs to inject new life into this pool of pop culture stagnation.
The story is set before the events of the second “Shrek” film and follows the more heroic adventures of the sword-fighting feline Puss in Boots, with Antonio Banderas reprising his role. Puss pursues a pair of bandits, played by Billy Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris, who have come into the possession of the fabled magic beans. This leads him to cross paths, and blades, with his old friend Humpty Dumpty (played by Zach Galifianakis) and the notorious thief Kitty Softpaws, played by Salma Hayek.
The first thing that I have to say about this film is that this isn’t like the “Shrek” films at all. In fact, it keeps the connection very downplayed. While there is the self-referential humor of the previous films, this one isn’t as saturated with pop culture humor. Most of the parodies are only of movies such as “The Legend of Zorro”. Most of the time the film focuses on telling a simple adventure story that’s more akin to the family fantasy films. On that note, if you are someone who has avoided the “Shrek” franchise, you won’t be lost in the slightest.
The acting in this film, as per the usual faire of Dreamworks, is top notch. Banderas doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to playing the character that is almost a satire of his performance as “Zorro”. However, one performance I didn’t expect to take as seriously as I did was the performance of Humpty Dumpty given by Galifianakis, who actually does a good job portraying a character that you can both like, hate and like to hate at the same time. Hayek’s performance was also pretty good for someone cast as a Bond-esque femme fatale.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this film was. It had a solid story with a nice blend of action and comedy without being a rehash of the past “Shrek” films. Instead of trying to exhaust its connection to the previous films, it sought to become more of its own entity, which worked well. I’m giving this film a 4/5. A solid and enjoyable family movie.