Tuesday, November 01, 2011

puss ... all that he needs are the boots

Cat people may be crazy, as Puss tells master thief Kitty Softpaws, but they can also propel a movie to the #1 box office in the country, to the tune of $34 million. Puss in Boots proved this past weekend that it is more than just a spin-off from the successful Shrek film series — it is well on its way to becoming a successful franchise on its own — with an ending definitely left open for a sequel (or two or three.)

If there are indeed more Puss movies to come, that would be fine for star Antonio Banderas, who is obviously having the time of his life portraying the feline swashbuckler. His delight came through loud and clear in his very expressive voicework.

Audiences first met the character of Puss in Shrek 2, when he was introduced as another comic foil to Shrek (Mike Myers), much to the dismay of Shrek's original sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy), who told Puss that the position of "annoying talking animal" was already taken. Puss won over Shrek and everyone he met, pretty much stealing the movie from the ogre and his friends.

No matter how bombastic his boasting may get, Puss is never too proud to pull out "the look"
when he's in a tough spot and needs to win someone over.

Banderas was the perfect choice to play the tricky Puss, and the role quickly morphed from a French cavalier to a more Zorro-like bandit. He was encouraged to not only bring his own personality to the part, but his humor as well, as he told blackfilm.com (about Shrek 2):
If there is a word that defines this type of movie, and not just the second one ... is wit. I think that's the type of humor that they are trying to create.
Puss in Boots is witty. And silly, but it's not so much a comedy as an action-adventure, super-hero origin story. We learn through flashbacks how the kitten Puss was raised in an orphanage, where he met and befriended Humpty "Alexander" Dumpty (a very funny Zach Galifianakis). Humpty and Puss are outsiders, and they bond over Humpty's dream of finding Jack's magic beans and climbing the beanstalk to steal the Giant's golden eggs. But boys grow up. Puss moves on from the dream but Humpty doesn't. The two have a falling out, and through a series of misunderstandings Puss is accused of a crime he didn't commit. He flees, becoming an outlaw. Years later Humpty enters his life again, with a new ally, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and the same old dream, to steal the magic beans, which he has tracked to be in the possession of bandits Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris). But can Humpty and Kitty persuade Puss to join him on their quest?

Jill: [as she dangles Puss over a canyon] Is it true a cat always lands on its feet?
Puss in Boots: No! That is just a rumor, spread by dogs!

Puss in Boots mixes the fairy tale world from Shrek with bits of Zorro and Sergio Leone westerns to create a fun  back-drop for the fearless feline. You may never think of Mother Goose the same way again.

Directed by Chris Miller (Shrek the ThirdPuss in Boots is a good-looking film (as surely Puss himself would agree). We saw it in IMAX and it was truly impressive. The 3D looked the best I've ever seen it, with objects really appearing as if they were in front of each other. The sheer size of the screen highlighted the detail with which every hair on Puss had been rendered, the little bumps and imperfections on the surface of Humpty's shell, even dust motes floating in the air.

Dreamworks's Glendale studio worked with Indian animation company Paprika Animation Studios (which also created Scared Shrekless), and the results are indeed impressive. But beautiful images aside, Puss in Boots wouldn't work without the power of personality, actor and character. Audiences have come to love Puss. He is strong and interesting enough on his own to carry the movie without any of his old Shrek chums. Hopefully there will be more films to come featuring the feline hero.

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