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Awesome: 9.09%
Worth A Look: 18.18%
Pretty Bad: 0%
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1 review, 5 user ratings

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Puss in Boots (2011)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"The Fur I Live In"
3 stars

Ever since the character of the hilariously suave and debonair feline known as Puss in Boots made his debut in the other negligible "Shrek 2," there have been talks and rumors about a spin-off film that would have him as the central character. Instead, he wound up making additional appearances in the two subsequent entries in the "Shrek" franchise and the general consensus was that the character was the only notable aspect of the otherwise tiresome films. Now that the "Shrek" films have apparently finally run their course, the Castilian kitty has finally been granted his own vehicle (and presumed launching pad for his own franchise) with the imaginatively titled "Puss in Boots." The good news, beyond the fact that there are no ogres with increasingly irritating Scottish brogues on display, is that unlike most other attempts to give hilarious supporting cast members their own vehicle to shine (such as when Russell Brand's looney rock star from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was given his own film in "Get Him to the Greek"), which tend to do nothing more than prove that there can indeed be too much of a good thing, Puss is such an entertaining character that he still miraculously not worn out his welcome. Pity that the same thing can't be said about the movie itself, which is reasonably bright and funny for a while but which eventually runs out of steam long before it comes to an end.

As the film opens, the leche-loving Puss (Antonio Banderas) strolls into a small Spanish town looking for a score and learns that the fearsome Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) have just arrived and are possession of some magic beans that, when planted in the proper place, will grown a giant beanstalk that will take a person into the clouds and supposedly lead them to a magical baby goose with the ability to lay golden eggs. Realizing that acquiring a couple of those valuable ova will allow him to repay a long-standing debt that has been haunting him for years, he sets off to steal the beans but is interrupted at the scene by another cat attempting the same thing. Neither one succeeds and after a long chase capped off by a dance-off (don't ask), Puss is shocked and somewhat thrilled to find that his rival is none other than the seductive Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), a felonious feline whose moves are just as good as his. Puss is equally shocked and much less thrilled to find that Kitty is working with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), a character who used to be Puss' best friend in their younger days until he roped Puss into a botched bank robbery in the town they grew up in that left him arrested and Puss exiled in shame from the only home that he ever knew. As it turns out, Humpty is after the golden goose as well and needs Puss' help and the two, along with Kitty, form an uneasy partnership that finds them doing battle amongst themselves as well as the fearsome beast that guards the golden goose.

Eschewing the narrative of the actual fairy tale that bears its name for a storyline that plays like a mash-up of the "Fractured Fairy Tales" segments of the old "Rocky & Bullwinkle" show and an old "Zorro" movie, "Puss in Boots" kicks off on such a high note as it reestablishes the character bonafides as a fighter and as a lover that it seems impossible that it could possibly sustain that opening burst of humor and energy for the entire running time. Screenwriter Tom Wheeler and director Chris Miller try their damnedest to do just that and there are hilarious bits strewn throughout but after a while, the film becomes a bit of a drag as too many scenes just seem to go on forever in an attempt to take a story that might have been sufficient for a 60-minute television special and stretch it out for an extra 30 minutes in order to get it to an acceptable running time for a feature film. At one point, for example, we are treated to a flashback in which Puss reveals the secrets of his childhood and his prior relationship with Humpty and the sequence goes on for so long that is pretty much brings the proceedings to a dead halt from which it never quite recovers. In fact every major set-piece, including such good ones as a bit in which Puss chase Kitty across the rooftops in an oddball homage to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and one later on in which our heroes find themselves joyously bouncing through the clouds, seems to go on for maybe an minute or two longer than necessary and after a while, all that padding begins to take its toll. Another problem is one that has become all too familiar in animated films of late, even the exemplary efforts by Pixar, and that is the inexplicable need to bring things to a conclusion via a slam-bang action sequence that plays more like an audition for the inevitable video game tie-in than a satisfactory resolution to the story we have just witnessed.

And yet, despite the numerous dull spots and aimless mucking about that tends to overwhelm to proceedings, "Puss in Boots" still has its moments and most of them come courtesy of the stellar vocal contributions of Antonio Banderas, who, between this and his turn in the considerably different "The Skin I Live In," is having one hell of a season. His alternately sly, seductive and silly vocal inflections are still a joy to behold and he manages to pull off the task of being funny without coming across as too silly, a considerable achievement for a film of this type. He is also ably supported by the voice work of his co-stars as well--Hayek turns up the seductive charm, Thornton and Sedaris are amusing as the radically reconfigured Jack and Jill and even Galifianakis, who usually instills in me a response normally reserved for the sound of fingernails dragged across a chalkboard, is less irritating than usual. As a result, even though I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the film--not that that will prevent millions of people from rushing out to see it this weekend--I must also admit that I am nevertheless looking forward to the almost inevitable sequel. After all, there is nothing about "Puss in Boots" that cannot be fixed.

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originally posted: 10/28/11 15:00:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2011 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/16/12 Dr.Lao Another mediocre offering from the "nothin to speak of but Shreck" studios 3 stars
3/23/12 Les S. Adorable animation (love those kitty eyes. Funny enough for kids and parents to like. 4 stars
11/12/11 Marcia Lartz Reasonably frolicsome romp at times, but where's the Puss-In-Boots story as I remember it? 3 stars
11/01/11 The Big D Puss Rocks!! 4 stars
10/29/11 Louis Blyskal Great for the kids 5 stars
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  28-Oct-2011 (PG)
  DVD: 24-Feb-2012


  DVD: 21-Feb-2012

Directed by
  Chris Miller

Written by
  Tom Wheeler
  Chris Miller

  Antonio Banderas
  Salma Hayek
  Zach Galifianakis

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