With the Shrek series having brilliantly concluded with Shrek Forever After last year, Dreamworks was bound to develop a storyline involving another important character. It could have been the big bad wolf, Rumpelstiltskin or the Gingerbread man, but the mantle fell on Puss in Boots. Unlike his last appearance in Shrek, where he was shown as bloated and obese, Puss is back to his feisty agile self.
Unlike most animation films that keep the tussle focused on good versus evil or kind versus cruel, director Chris Miller chooses to explore the themes of love, friendship, trust and betrayal. Not themes that can be easily assimilated by very young audiences. As if to make up for that, there's enough eye-popping action to keep even the four-year-olds involved.
Puss (voice-over by Antonio Banderas) is a do-gooder who does the wrong things but for the right reasons. Having grown up in an orphanage, his best friend was Humpty Dumpty. They thrive on petty crimes but when one of their escapades goes haywire, there is a major fall-out between the two and they don't see or speak to each other for seven years.
Despite all his blustery bravado Puss is a feline who falls as easily for a ball of yarn as for the female of the species. In a cleverly contrived encounter, he falls hard for Kitty Softpaws, a declawed cat who has enough reason to mistrust all species surrounding her. And the reason she was declawed will bring cheer to any cat lover's heart. The feline species simply do what they have to do; it is gross insensitive owners who need to be retrained in their ways of thinking. The characters of both Puss and Kitty are guaranteed to bring a smile to any cat lover's face.
Romance isn't the only thing on Puss's mind. For years he has been trying to lay his hands on the magic beans that will ensure he reaches the giant's castle up in the sky. The tricky bit lies in stealing the beans from Jack and Jill (two married gangsters on the run), a modern-day animated Bonny
While children are more accepting, these villainous versions may not find favour with parents, who feel nursery rhyme characters are best left alone. Kids need to believe in them unquestioningly, not wonder if Jack's gone woolly in the head after he broke his crown.
Focusing mainly on action, the script lacks emotional depth. References to other nursery rhyme characters are sporadic and they appear as mere add-ons. In keeping the plot simple and focused, the directors might have alienated the really young audiences who sit glued to their seats hoping to see glimpses of Peter Pan, Pied Piper and more.
Adult audiences can identify with both protagonists since all they seek is to make one huge killing which will restore their dignity, clear their names and enable them to live a life free of drudgery and financial worries.
Considering that Puss in Boots is a simple tale, was there a real need for 3-D? The action sequences are not enhanced by the technology as they have been superbly planned and executed. As when mother goose comes to town looking for her little gosling who lays golden eggs. Or when the trio is floating on a cloud looking for the castle in the sky.
At the end of the film it is these cleverly crafted moments that stay with us. And Antonio Banderas with his Spanish drawl ensures that you won't dislike Puss.
Puss in Boots won't keep you smiling for the rest of the day the way Kung Fu Panda did. But neither will it bring tears to your eyes in the manner only Buzz Lightyear can.
Watch it without making any comparisons and it's a fun one-time watch.