‘Puss in Boots’ is the cat’s meow
Aside from its entertainment value, the new animated “Puss in Boots” movie’s strongest suit is its captivating creativity. Filmmaker Chris Miller has deftly taken two disparate characters from the world of fairy tales, and put them together adroitly in his latest hit.
As per the movie’s title, its star is Puss in Boots, portrayed and voiced by Antonio Banderas as a lovable rogue. But, he shares a lot of screen time with, of all characters, Humpty Dumpty, who is cast as his former friend and current nemesis.
The very idea of making Puss and Humpty interact with one another comes so far out of left field that it could either be brilliant, or an act of absolute folly. They initially look and feel so mismatched that we’re afraid that their unexpected tandem could end up as an awkward and colossally unfunny joke.
But, credit Miller and his creative gremlins for avoiding most of the radical concept’s inherent pitfalls and landmines. “Puss” is a winner, constantly delighting viewers with its droll inventiveness and mastery of “deconstruction”—and reconstruction.
As the movie’s story unreels, we learn that Puss is a good guy who’s fallen foul of the law through no fault of his. It’s his best buddy, Humpty, who’s sucked him into a life of crime, so the rest of the movie dramatizes how their relationship alternately improves or further disintegrates, until their climactic moment of truth—and forgiveness—at film’s end.
Other droll characters make the movie more eventful. They include Puss’ love interest, Kitty Softpaws, and the villainous team of Jack and Jill—who in this reincarnation do much more than go up the hill to get a pail of water—!
Very creatively, they are made the bearers of the magical beans from another yarn, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” which are even more surprisingly made to come to bear on—the Goose that lays the golden eggs!
Again, the new reconfiguration of old characters could fall flat on its face—but, thankfully, the film doesn’t stumble, it soars, as Miller confidently ties all the loose ends of his clever conceit together and make them shimmer as one.
Other impressive aspects of the film include its brisk pacing, occasionally dazzling visuals, textured portrayals, and the ability to combine the old with the new to come up with an original creation that works on its own terms.
The film should also be credited with being able to connect, not just with child viewers, but with their accompanying elders, as well. That’s no mean feat, since each kind of viewer has his own requirements and preferences, but “Puss” manages to pull off the adroit balancing act, no fuss at all.
The performances are paced by Banderas’ clever vocal characterization of Puss, which hits just the right combination of roguishness and whimsey.
Zach Galifianakis’ vocal portrayal of Humpty is an even tougher challenge, because he has to be both villainous and fey—and ultimately worthy of forgiveness.
—And, to her credit, Salma Hayek (Kitty) manages to hold her own despite being “sandwiched” between these two comedic and thespic gems!