The title character (voiced by Antonio Banderas), a Zorro-esque romantic, swashbuckling rogue, attempts to steal magic beans from the grotesque Jack and Jill, only to be interrupted by the masked cat burglar Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek), who in turn is in cahoots with Puss’ long-estranged brother (well, sorta) Humpty Dumpty. Humpty was responsible for the once heralded hero Puss being marked as an outlaw in town, after Humpty unwittingly getting him involved in a bank robbery. Humpty, who paid for his crimes in prison, says he wants a chance to make things right with his former orphanage companion, and wants Puss to join himself and Kitty in stealing the beans. Apparently the beans will sprout a beanstalk that leads to a castle in the sky, and the Golden Goose who will lay golden eggs. But is Humpty to be trusted?
Given he stole the show in “Shrek 2”, it’s little surprise that the swashbuckling cat voiced by Antonio Banderas would get his own spin off. What does surprise me is that this 2011 film directed by Chris Miller (“Shrek the Third”) is actually a lot of fun. Critics, for instance, have been all over the shop in regards to this film, but I personally rather enjoyed it. It’s not a great film nor a gut-buster, but it’s cute and likeable.
The film begins with the funniest DreamWorks logo ever, as the little boy in the moon whips his fishing line, accompanied by flamenco music (the music is excellent throughout). This is easily the best character Antonio Banderas has played to date (Puss is adorable as a kitten too), and he and Salma Hayek have very obvious chemistry, even when animated. Hayek’s pussy is gorgeous, by the way. What? What did I say? I guess Banderas is an unlikely choice to work in animation given his thick Spanish accent, but here he has found the perfect role to get away with his limitations. I loved the idea of Puss leaving his latest conquest in bed and also forgetting her name. I guess he gets lots of pussy. Yeah, I went there. It’s adorable watching him lap up his milk at the local saloon. The film also provides us with the funniest dance-off I’ve seen all year, and the cameo by Little Boy Blue was, for me, the comic highlight of the film. Meanwhile, only in an off-shoot of the “Shrek” series can Puss in Boots and Humpty Dumpty be brothers. It’s so cute (Even cuter? The Golden Goose, who looks like Tweety Bird).
I love that Humpty (voiced by a surprisingly effective Zach Galifianakis), Little Boy Blue, and Jack and Jill (the latter two voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) are all a bit creepy and seedy. I certainly wouldn’t be recounting the story of Jack and Jill to the little ones after watching this. Am I the only one who always assumed they were brother and sister? Apparently they’re not, but at least neither is played by Adam Sandler. Screenwriters Brian Lynch, David H. Steinberg (who previously worked on “Slackers”, and “National Lampoon’s Barely Legal” of all films), Tom Wheeler, and Jon Zack obviously enjoyed bringing in all these well-known characters and subverting them in the best “Shrek” fashion. One question about Humpty Dumpty, however: If Humpty and Puss are roughly the same size, how big is the damn chicken? (Sooo tempted to make a ‘cock’ joke here, so please take note of my restraint). Meanwhile, am I the only one a little unnerved by the idea of an egg with teeth? It was just so creepy-looking. There’s an hilarious flashback/Talking Killer (credit: Roger Ebert) scene at one point, though. Not even sure why, it just made me laugh, though I do think an opportunity was lost not giving us a literal fried egg joke (After all, Humpty does have a thin skin...er...shell). The bit with the catnip was even funnier, and clearly designed for the adults in the audience.
Although a family film and a comedy, the film also works as a swashbuckler, at least for me it did. The only negative for me in the whole film is that Puss and Kitty should’ve had a genuine romantic relationship in the film. It’s practically a “Zorro” film, after all. The action is genuinely fun however, and the whole film is beautiful to look at. It proves that you don’t need motion capture, this computer animation is stunning. Hell, even the humans look better in this than in the awful motion-capture flick “Adventures of Tintin”. The fur on the cats (had to be careful there with my choice of words) in particular is amazing, even if the eyes still look a little cheap and 2D. I really liked that although a lot of this is bathed in sun and lights, it doesn’t make everything monochromatic, something that bothered me in the “Kung Fu Panda” films (and live-action films, for that matter). We even get a lot of attention paid to ‘camera angles’, with lots of close-ups throughout.
I’m not sure how this plays for kids and I don’t care. I really enjoyed it, and you might too. It ain’t “Pinocchio” but it’s solid entertainment for...well, just about everyone in the family, I’d wager.