‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ Review: Swashbuckling Again

This animated sequel is a tidy charmer.

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By Glenn Kenny

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It might be hard to believe it today, but there was a time when “Shrek” seemed like a breath of fresh air in the world of big-screen animation. Its salty humor and insistent pop culture knowingness was fun for a minute, before the sequels got nudging and formulaic. And then there was the whole shoving-Smash Mouth-down-our-throat issue. DreamWorks, the studio that concocted “Shrek,” soon enough became the anti-Pixar — in a bad way.

So it’s a pleasant surprise that “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” the second feature film highlighting a beloved children’s lit character who became one of the favorite additions to the “Shrek” universe, is for the most part winning. It contains amusing jokes and has an old-fashioned impulse to tug at heart strings. This in spite of the video-game-suggestive plot construction, in which Puss and cohorts, aided by an animated map, race to a dark forest to find a wishing star, with other children’s lore characters in hot, malevolent pursuit.

Puss is voiced by Antonio Banderas, whose purr can warm the cockles of any and all, as is also the case with Salma Hayek Pinault, who plays his love-and-hate interest Kitty Softpaws. Directed by Joel Crawford, the movie’s overall tone harks back not so much to prior DreamWorks pictures as it does to the “Fractured Fairy Tales” of the old TV cartoon “Rocky and Bullwinkle.” To this end, Goldilocks and the Three Bears are now a band of criminals (including voice work by the powerhouses Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Florence Pugh). This often charming movie will play particularly well if you’re a cat person. But who’s not?

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. In theaters.

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