Raphael Georg Klopper’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets furry fairy tale and an existential psychoanalytical drama about death and mental health. You guys weren’t kidding, this movie is AMAZING!
From the trailers alone I wasn’t impressed nor much caught into its style that seemed more like a cheap desperate attempt of jumping in the Into the Spider-Verse trend of ‘comic book panel / anime / high-stylized cartoon and sell itself as COOL and STYLIZED; and while IS that, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish also has the determination and will to draw an emotionally resonant and tangible narrative that not only treats its main character with the due respect, while seeing to explore its universe and story in an imaginative path that doesn’t betray what came before and expands it in rich and insanely creative ways!
A sequel to a spin-off film from a side character from a beloved template animated franchise that manages to be better than most of all the films from said franchise (top 3 next to Shrek 2 and 1 without even breaking a sweat). And while the Shrek-verse is a reality about to be explored after this film’s success, The Last Wish is a standalone amusing adventure that never lets down for a second and keeps the fur ball rolling non-stop towards a win-streak through a hero’s journey of self discovery and legend deconstruction through facing one’s mortality through the finite expiration date of our existences.
The movie genuinely feels like the modern take of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale by tackling very similarly their dark cautionary tales that puts the protagonists on a path to appreciate the light purity of life after having faced its somber looming shadowy places – as it is the life-valuing journey taken by Puss here, only heightened up to eleven, by also being a straight up spaghetti Western adventure treasure hunt dispute Leone style, all to literally ‘to wish upon a star’, while escaping from a big bad wolf. Yes, Puss in Boots is high-fantasy CINEMA!
It completely incinerates the first film apart by getting rid of the messy cynical self-awareness that got muddled with too much taken serious fantasy that made it feel like a walking anomaly of the hyper real Shrek films loose in this big scale adventure that never made proper use to it with any interesting story beyond sibling rivalry between a cat with boots and b egg named Humpty-Dumpty.
While The Last Wish smartly picks the best portion of Shrek’s adult edgy humor, the popular fantasy elements and known characters, minus the cynicism while mixing it up with Pixar’s existential subtexts lured within the main story. Like having a cat nursing home that acts like the prison where our hero character goes to live his last days alone in a sorrowful retirement Logan style – is played for laughs but the adults in the audience know that is clear a portrayal of repressing and depression.
And while it drinks a lot from the Into the Spider-Verse hyper-stylized 2D style of scratchy hand-drawn lines, motion delay to give the impression of drawn strokes, it peppers it up with brighter beaming in colors and relentless kinetic energy with its anime level action scenes where in the first 10 minutes of the film we go from a musical number to some swashbuckling action that soon becomes a huge Kaiju set-piece – and that’s only the beginning!
With one excellent action set-piece better and more chaotically orchestrated than the latter, that makes amazing use of its fantasy elements and scenarios, like the forest dimension that shapes depending on the magical map user that makes for nice transversal structures, plus filled with visual gags being machined gun with perfectionist precision.
It balances that style along with the familiar 3D textures of the Shrek films, without the same pristine photo-realistic texture but carrying palpable veins and outlines, making for a mixture diversification that keeps the visuals always remodeling and feeling alive that really feels like the creators and animators are having the freedom of experimenting and achieving something new! Is not even fair saying this is better than basically everything Disney and Pixar (or Dreamworks itself) have been putting out in recent years because is just that whole other level of creative freedom and expert storytelling matched together in harmonious synchrony.
That really plays with the best elements that the best Dreamworks animations have going for them – excellent voice acting, good knack for comedy; but takes it beyond any generic childish Trolls or Boss Baby movie level by allowing a mature even morbid bits of humor with enough dramatic maturity to let its themes of mortality and anxiety to cut deep in a touching reflexive resonance. The narrative never drags but never derails in messy overlapped rushed pace, with good storytelling backing up!
It reaches a point where is very hard to pick flaws in a movie that flows so tastefully well with everything fitting together like butter not going past the edges of the bread. The central character development is flawless, where we follow Puss going from the cocky swashbuckler we all know, living under the illusion of legendary mortality and the hubris loneliness that brings when he begins to realize the very same just as he meets his ultimate enemy: the fear for the inevitable end we all, after a moment in our lives begin to realize and live with that existential dread. And is extremely rewarding how he must learn how grow with that fear, not suppress his anxieties and make the best of this life by being our better version, without the need of nine more chances.
Along with balancing a FANTASTIC set of characters, that finds room to fit a sub-plot with Goldilocks and the Three Bears that begin the movie as a Princess Mononoke type of warrior that soon reveals as a British crime family of bounty-hunters with cockney accents whom have a family-character arc about accepting each other’s unbalanced behaviors and characteristics just as their fairy tale dictates, to become a more united family that’s just as emotionally heartfelt?! WHERE DID THAT CAME FROM?! (And oh my god the bears adopted her as a foster family, that’s so insanely creatively funny and sweet at the same time).
Perrito is such an cute little ugly dog you want to keep him save inside a pot and keep his adorably humanistic purity safe from the evils of the world that gets reflected in his SUPER depressing back story, which helps sell even more how much of an special character he is, someone that never cared for the scars inflicted upon him because he knows life has much too value beyond them; Salma Hayek's Kitty Softpaws definitely has more substance here to work with Puss love relation, if not that much to impress, at least serviceable, and Hayek, just as Banderas are having clear fun – as usual – voicing their characters.
And as much as I LOVED hearing Ray Winstone, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo as the bear family, nothing tops the Jiminy Cricket with James Stewart voice that just became the definitive Jiminy Cricket in my book! The poor fellow that tries to act as the conscious to the relentlessly cruel Jack Horner, the freaking thumb sticking pie baby from the nursery rhyme that becomes a cruel narcissistic ego-driven ass-hole of a love to hate villain with some serious psychological damage, where even he receives a clear character-depth regarding his complete inability to accept his selfish wrongs and not valuing NOTHING nor anyone that he has, plus he’s a cool threatening presence with all his magical arsenal and he’s voiced by John Mulaney which makes him constantly funny!
But OH BOY, Wagner Moura as Lobo-Death is one for the ages! You can spill all you want how his magnetic great villain works out of his great badass wolf design with those deep red eyes, but is the Brazilian actor’s voice that makes it all pure chilling sinister. Whistling has never been this much scary! Feeling more like an horror movie villain, whose sole motivation isn’t (just) to torment Puss in a constant feeling of dread and making him panic attacks; is actually an antagonist with an interesting motivation, as an entity completely disgusted with someone not valuing the life he has, wasting it all in a selfish self-centered believe he can do no wrong.
Which makes all the characters development tied in a not perfectly, each in their own journey of realizing what they have in life is worth cherishing without having to beg a star for happiness – and as wolves in Brothers Grimm's stories were always depicted as "the personification of fear”, so that’s the icing on the cake of chef’s kiss achieved here in a melancholically dark and life-affirming beautiful message that’s as fantastical as any good fairy tale could ask for!
I could complain a little about how the last third runs a bit too rapidly for my liking, with a lot of the character threads being resolved in too much verbose dump, but the climax deliver in spades of some more neat visuals and great action with the rights to a full ‘shadow reflection’ swashbuckling duel between Puss and Death, so this movie is all in all FAR FAR AWAY from any disappointment.
The Last Wish feels like once in every decade event of something made with great quality and creative freedom – and 2022 has been marked by those. An animation that embraces the medium to evolve but also has the guts of pushing farther thematically and tonally, hilarious and heartfelt for the kids, emotionally resonant for adults, purely exciting and enchanting for everyone; finally some Western animation proving its worth in spades!