The Shrek film series has been pretty terrible for a while now. When the first film came out it was exciting and new, and seemed to suggest a Looney Tunes approach to the newfangled trend of CG animation. Alas, subsequent entries were terrible. They’ll probably go back to the Shrek well again, but until then, they’ve given us Puss in Boots, which is better than (though indebted to) the Shrek sequels by a wide margin. Antonio Banderas stars as the titular Puss, a womanizing feline who’s known as a great thief. Here he partners with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) to plant the beanstalk seeds owned by Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thorton, Amy Sedaris). Our review of the Blu-ray of Puss in Boots follows after the jump.
The thing that makes Puss so superior to Shrek sequels is that it’s got a good lead character and a an actual story – albeit way too much backstory. Puss is a great thief, but he runs across Kitty while out prowling and the two have a dance off. She’s working with Humpty, and it turns out that Puss and Humpty grew up together. Cue long backstory. Humpty wants Puss to help steal a great prize, the beanstalk seeds from Jack and Jill. It takes some doing, but eventually they plant the seeds and find the goose that laid the golden eggs, only Humpty – who spent years in jail – is literally cracked, and all is not what it seems.
There is a plot here, and a modestly thrilling adventure story, so it works as passable kids entertainment that’s not too obnoxious for adults. But the idea of young versions of Puss and Humpty are supposed to be more charming and interesting than they are, and most of the backstory felt like filler to get the film to its 90 minute run time. But there are charming jokes here and there, and the dance off sequence is definitely a good set piece (set in “The Glitter Box”).
But it’s nowhere near Pixar at its best, or even DreamWorks when they’ve got a good story to tell (Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon). Director Chris Miller provides more interesting flavor than the previous Shrek films in his design, and the film is well served by its widescreen frame. The wider frame also helps give the film the feel of a western, which it is in some respects, and in a lot of ways it’s a semi-sequel to Banderas’s turn as Zorro. There’s also some playful split screen images, though much of the credit for this is often handed to executive producer Guillermo Del Toro. How much he had to do with making this more interesting is up for grabs.
Puss in Boots is presents widescreen (2.35:1) and in 7.1 Dolby True-HD. Immaculate presentation. The Blu-ray set also comes with a DVD and digital copy. The film comes with an “animator’s track” that is part video commentary and part storyboard gallery, and a trivia track. It also comes with a new short “Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos” (13 min.), which has Puss up against three slightly evil baby kitties. Then there’s with “A Dreamworks Fairytale” which allows you to make your own Mad-libs style nursery rhyme, which is followed by “Puss’ Paw Pouncing Challenge, which is an interactive game that has you targeting lights on the screen. There’s also “Purr-fect Pairing: the Voices Behind the legend” (9 min.), which is the more standard making of, and then three deleted scenes (7 min.) all of which are minor cuts. “Kitten to Cat” (12 min.) talks about the development of the character since his first appearance in Shrek 2, and it’s followed by “Glitter Box Dance Off!” (5 min.), which is a dance tutorial. “Klepto Kitty” (4 min.) tells of a real life cat that’s famous for stealing neighbor’s possessions. “Kitty Keyboard” lets you play four songs while “Fairytale Pop-up Book” offers highlights from the film. “Kitty Strikes Again” offers a “spot the difference” game, while – like most DreamWorks animated titles – there’s an option to sample other DreamWorks Animated features.