By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
With three scene-stealing supporting turns in the Shrek franchise, Puss in Boots meowed for his own movie.
And now the orange tabby with the huge eyeballs, a feathered hat, and sly boots has got one.
Puss in Boots is a spirited and enjoyable computer-animated comedy built around the breakout kitty from Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, and Shrek Forever, highlighted by three energetically choreographed dance numbers that soar so high above the rest of the movie, they call for more of the same.
Named for a feline character who emerged from a seventeenth-century French fairy tale, Puss in Boots is a prequel starring Antonio Banderas, who provides both the voice and the persona of the swaggering, sword-wielding feline in this prequel to Shrek.
Once again he is a mythic swordsman and lover as well as a swashbuckling hero pledged to protect the innocent.
Salma Hayek joins the fun as the love interest, the street-savvy, slick thief, vivacious and clawless Kitty Softpaws; Zach Galifianakis voices Puss’s childhood friend and fellow orphan, a mastermind, Humpty Alexander Dumpty, who’s either a good egg or a rotten one, and who plans to retrieve golden eggs from a famous goose; and Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris as murderous outlaws Jack and Jill, who also have nefarious plans for those golden eggs.
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Puss, Kitty, and Humpty team up to find the magic beans that will grow into a beanstalk that stretches into a castle in the sky and hope to steal golden eggs so that Puss can clear his slandered name and pull his reputation out of the litter box.
Director Chris Miller, who also helmed Shrek the Third, offers us splendid, exhilarating animation, even if he focuses almost to a fault on scenes (swordfights, chases, dances, and climbs) that lend themselves to the 3-D process. Yes, sometimes they slow the narrative down, but it must be admitted that, as movies offering the 3-D gimmick go, this one shows it off to maximum advantage.
Is 3-D necessary for enjoyment of this animated romp? No. But the process is impressively, dynamically employed.
The screenplay, which Miller co-wrote with Tom Wheeler, Brian Lynch, and David H. Steinberg, creates an effective origin story for the title character and has just enough plot to keep youngsters and grownups engaged without the reliance on pop-culture references and jokes that characterize the Shrek flicks.
In truth, nothing in the film can match the appeal and humor of the central character or his jaunts on the dance floor, but that’s more than enough to keep youngsters enthralled.
Banderas’s Puss is endearingly witty and utterly charming, as the actor gets wondrous comic mileage out of his smartly delivered lines while sending up roles he’s known for, especially in the Zorro flicks. Pity that Hayek doesn’t quite match his vividness or impact, and pity squared that the miscast Galifianakis does so little with his surprisingly large role.
Still, we’ll run a tabby of 3 stars out of 4 for the smartly entertaining Shrek spinoff prequel, Puss in Boots. If it’s not purr-fect, it’s a lot closer to being the cat’s meow than any kind of cashing-in cat-astrophe.