2011 will forever be known as the Year When Pixar Misread Its Audience With Disastrous Effect. Fortunately for DreamWorks Animation, some executive put down his foot and refused to greenlight Grandpa Shrek Once Again. The response to Shrek Forever After made it very clear that all the goodwill earned by Shrek and its smart sequels had been definitively squandered, which is why a spin-off film was a terribly risky venture. But DreamWorks cleverly chose to make your film about the one thing the internet is incapable of dinging: THE CUTEST WIDDLE KITTY CATS IN THE WORLD OHMYGOD SO FUZZY I WANT TO SNUGGLE WITH THEM. And also stars the suavest cat since Macavity.
|I have a sneaking suspicion that this image is the reason why this film received such overwhelmingly positive reviews.|
Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Puss in Boots (who, *snigger* is known as Cat in Boots in some countries for "cultural" reasons) is a hard-bitten outlaw on the run, drinks shots of milk through gritted teeth and woos the ladies with his sweet flamenco moves. He is approached by the morally flexible Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) with an offer Puss cant resist: a dangerous quest for magic beans! And as if Puss needed any more convincing, Humpty's partner-in-crime, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) charms her way into Puss's heart.
While it did drag in some parts, overall, the script was very funny and the plot held its ground. The film was far less formulaic than its predecessors and it worked well as a spin-off. It must've taken monumental willpower on their part to not shoehorn in Shrek characters. Yes, they did the usual Shrek thing of fairy-tale-characters-with-a-twist, but none of that over the top, caricature-ish Rumpelstiltskin stuff. Jack and Jill are murderous outlaws with marital problems; Humpty Dumpty is... well, Zach Galifianakis shaped like an egg, and they pulled it off.
There were plenty of cheeky references to the actors' filmography like Desperado and The Mask of Zorro which was a cute touch without getting obnoxious. Most critics complain about the ubiquity of pop culture references in a film for children, but I guess you've got to throw a bone to the baby-sitting adults/ Peter Pans in the audience.
While the verdict is "wit, visual sparkle and effervescent charm", will this film win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature? Technical brilliance is always appreciated, but this prize does not reward the technology as much as the the creative use of technology. Which is exactly what Shrek, Spirited Away, Wall-E, Wallace & Gromit, Ratatouille and Happy Feet had in common-- they were wonderful, touching stories which were made remarkable with the use of animation. Similarly, despite having brilliant effects and the best use of 3D in recent times, How to Train Your Dragon with its cliched plot was beaten by the heartrending story in Toy Story 3. Puss in Boots has not managed to set itself apart from the fun but somewhat predictable heap of animated films and no heart strings whatsoever were pulled (except when Puss does his Big Kitty Eyes thing). So I'm leaning towards a 'no'.
|Who's a bad kitty? YES YOU ARE!|