Movie Review: Puss In Boots

Movie Review: Puss In Boots

Puss In BootsRating:  PG Distributor: Paramount Release Date: December 8Before there was a grumpy green ogre, before a donkey started making wisecracks, before there was a princess whiling away her hours in a tower, there was a cat … with a penchant for platform shoes.Puss In Boots is a spin-off from the Shrek series that tells the tale […]

By Mark HadleyTuesday 29 Nov 2011MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

Puss In Boots

Rating:  PG
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: December 8

Before there was a grumpy green ogre, before a donkey started making wisecracks, before there was a princess whiling away her hours in a tower, there was a cat … with a penchant for platform shoes.

Puss In Boots is a spin-off from the Shrek series that tells the tale of the swashbuckling feline (voiced by Antonio Banderas) before he met the ogre with the funny name. Viewers discover that Puss was once an orphan growing up in the pseudo-Mexican town of San Ricardo. There he became friends with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), a pointy-headed loner given to grand schemes. Their ultimate plan was to find the magic beans that would help them infiltrate a giant’s castle and pull off the greatest golden goose heist in history. However Humpty and Puss parted ways when his egg-head friend decided that robbing the townsfolk was a quicker path to riches. Humpty headed to prison and Puss hit the road. The arrival of a slinky crook, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) throws the friends back together again, but will their new plot to pilfer the giant amount to more than a hill of beans?

A blend of 3D animated action and tough-guy mockery, Puss In Boots is helmed by Chris Miller who has completely immersed himself in the Shrek franchise. He contributed dialogue and character voices to the first two films as well as writing and directing the third. Dreamworks initially intended this spin-off to be released straight to DVD but presumably the original voice talent and Miller’s experience convinced its producers to aim for a cinematic release. It’s a decision they may be regretting now.

Puss In Boots opened in the US on October 28 and broke the record for the highest-grossing Halloween weekend of all time (previously held by Saw III). But to put that in proportion its debut at the box office was also the worst in Dreamworks’ history since Flushed Away. Puss In Boots cost $130 million to make and has so far returned just over $170 million in ticket sales worldwide. Once marketing and distribution costs are factored in, Dreamworks will now be looking to those DVD sales to break even.

So how did the child of such a reputable franchise go wrong? Part of it has to do with the confusion over the film’s audience. The Shrek movies managed expand their appeal by walking the fine line between childish buffoonery and adult humour. Puss’s boots seem to clunky to follow in their footsteps. There’s a profusion of dialogue but not too many memorable one-liners, and the adult jokes don’t bear thinking about. Humpty tells Puss he was traumatized by the friends he made in prison – “Let me tell you, it wasn’t over …easy.” When Puss is searched by a prison guard and discovered to be carrying catnip he claims it’s for his glaucoma, an obscure reference to patients who used to use marijuana to treat eye conditions. There are also plenty of cross-over puns aimed at a much older audience.

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Parroting Fight Club, Humpty tells Puss:

“First rule of Bean Club, you don’t talk about Bean Club. Second rule of Bean Club, you don’t talk about Bean Club…”
– but there won’t be that many juniors familiar with that R-rated production in the seats. And Puss is also something of an alley cat with the ladies, which also won’t impress too many parents. Jack and Jill do turn up as redneck versions of Bonny & Clyde but there just isn’t enough slapstick to keep kids interested.

The themes of the film are no less confusing. Puss makes his living as a thief, though he’s the good kind. “I do not steal from churches; I do not steal from orphans,” he tells a bar full of criminals. But there doesn’t seem to be any harm in stealing from just about anyone else. Bad people, it seems are just as misunderstood as this film. Puss pleads with Humpty to show everyone that he’s not all that evil after all:

“I know you Humpty. You are better than this. Prove to me that there’s still a good egg in you.”

But let’s face it, his actions show that the proof of the omelet is in the eating. Clearly anyone who thinks they’ll be able to live how they like and plead innocence is putting all their eggs in a basket without a bottom.