When You Wish Upon a Puss in Boots… (CREDIT: Dreamworks Animation)

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, John Mulaney, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, Wagner Moura, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Anthony Mendez, Kevin McCann, Betsy Sodaro

Director: Joel Crawford

Running Time: 102 Minutes

Rating: PG for Cartoon Kitty Catastrophes

Release Date: December 21, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: A talking cat? A talking, swashbuckling cat?! Well, yes indeed. We’ve known this debonair furball for years at this point. Decades even. He lives in a fairy tale world where plenty of the animals are anthropomorphized, after all. Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has had no trouble making a name for himself. But alas, he seems to be losing a bit of his mojo lately. And when you’re a feline, that means having only one of your reputed nine lives left to spare. But this being a fairy tale world and all, there exist methods for magical restoration. So when Puss hears about the existence of a Wishing Star, he naturally wants to get his claws on it. But he’s not the only one, as Jack Horner (John Mulaney), Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo), and Puss’ old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) all have their own plans to procure the star’s powers. Also, Harvey Guillén voices a dog.

What Made an Impression?: If the only Shrek film you’ve seen previously was the first one, you could be forgiven for not realizing that Puss in Boots: The Last Wish takes place in the same universe. Sure, both of them are populated by fairy tale characters, but their modus operandi are totally different. Where the green ogre was irreverent, his feline colleague is more purely adventurous. The likes of Jack Horner, Goldi, and Pinocchio are thein window dressing in a sense, with their cultural histories mostly beside the point. The Last Wish‘s spacey climax on the Wishing Star feels like something out of an LSD trip, or a Super Mario video game, which is to say: not at all what I was expecting.

In that vein, The Last Wish actually reminded me of Halloween Ends, insofar as they’re both latter-day franchise entries with confoundingly unpredictable narrative left turns. In both cases, it’s plenty fascinating, and I suspect it will be easier to get away with this time around, since Puss doesn’t have to bear the weight of expectations that Michael Myers does. If his creators want to make his latest adventure more fantastical than any corner of the Shrek universe has ever been, then there’s really no reason not to. It certainly gives the voice cast something new to bite into, to the point that John Mulaney appears to be experiencing Heath Ledger-as-Joker-level glee in his revolution of a classic character. There’s room to color outside the lines here, and I can’t complain about that.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is Recommended If You Like: Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch

Grade: 3 out of 5 Swords