Puss In Boots
Directed by Chris Miller
Antonio Banderas – voice of Puss in Boots
Salma Hayek – voice of Kitty Softpaws
Zach Galfianakis – voice of Humpty Dumpty
Billy Bob Thornton – voice of Jack
Amy Sedaris – voice of Jill
This is the fifth part of the Shrek series, except that it’s a prequel, and Shrek isn’t in it. Banderas was central to the project, and has talked about doing the recording first, but that’s simply how you do animated film. He gets his name over the title which shows how far animated voiceover has come since the days when Disney voices were anonymous on release (though known now).
The story is based on Antonio Baderas’s Captain Altariste meets Zorro swashbuckling caballero ginger tom. It veers so far from the original fairy tales that kids who meet it young will have great difficulty in later following the pantomime versions of Puss in Boots, Jack & The Beanstalk or Mother Goose. They’ve all been mixed up and cross-referenced. The centrality of magic beans and golden eggs means Jack & The Beanstalk is the closest source, but massively adapted.
It’s set somewhere between 17th century Spain and Mexico … once you get in the desert, it’s definitely Mexico (or rather Arizona, which was Mexico in those days). I thought Spain at first, because Puss has a Spanish accent, and drops in gato and leche a couple of times (which would not be transparent to kids in Britain).The baddies, Jack and Jill, are a wonderful pair of aggressive hillbillies (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris).
Jack and Jill
Like every Shrek film, the animation is dense and beautiful to behold. It’s laden with cinematic in jokes too. The split screens and Sergio Leone spaghetti Western references; the horses and carts chasing each other is straight reference to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; lots of other Western references appear throughout. We opted for the 3D version, knowing we’d be sure to buy the 2D on DVD in a year’s time. The 3D is worth it (for a change) particularly in the scene where the beanstalk grows spiralling upward carrying our three heroes (Puss, Kitty & Humpty) with it.
Humpty, Kitty and Puss
The dancing, bits of flamenco and heel-stomping are excellent, if you can call animated felines dancing excellent. The music score carries the Latin feel well. The love interest between Puss and Kitty Softpaws is almost steamy.
Like every Shrek movie there are lots of jokes for the adults. I thought one was over the top – Humpty talks about his time in prison and says something like ‘for an egg, life in prison isn’t … over-easy.’ It doesn’t occur to our companions to ask what the joke means, but three or four years older, they might, and you’d have to explain that American films can’t mention prison nowadays without suggesting that homosexual rape is inevitable. In contrast, the burp and fart jokes that the little ones find so hysterical in the main Shrek films aren’t there. You also don’t have the intrinsic humour of Shrek and donkey, so that there are fewer funny lines. Humpty gets in one about his ‘golden egg’ but that would work better in Spanish (where eggs mean balls) than English. They’re replaced by the buddy movie gone bad / love story. Jack and Jill are grotesque and very funny indeed, but we don’t see enough of them. But enough of that, there hasn’t been a Shrek movie below “brilliant” and this maintains the standard.