“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”

The visually dazzling “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a swashbuckling adventure with heart that has just as much substance as it does style. From the high-stakes, emotional story and beautifully directed action scenes to the terrific voice performances, this animated film is a cut above typical family-friendly entertainment.

Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas) has always had a passion for daring exploits. Never one to shy away from danger, the brave kitty often finds himself in perilous situations that don’t always have a positive outcome. When Puss learns that he’s reached his eight life out of nine, he is forced to retire from his swashbuckling days and goes to live with a cat lady who rescues wayward felines. Here he meets the chatty and cheerful Perro (Harvey Guillén), a friendly Chihuahua who is only pretending to be a cat.

When Puss learns that his lost lives can be restored by the magical Wishing Star, he swallows his pride and asks his former partner (and current nemesis) Kitty Softpaws (voice of Salma Hayek) for help. With an epic quest on the horizon, Puss, Kitty and Perro venture together into the Black Forest to search for the Star. They face obstacles along the way, struggling to stay ahead of the Big Bad Wolf (voice of Wagner Moura), Big Jack Horner (voice of John Mulaney), and the nefarious Three Bears crime family (led by Goldilocks (voice of Florence Pugh)).

The bright, colorful animation is lively, and co-directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado understand the language of action cinema. This is an exciting film with thrilling scenes of adventure, but Paul Fisher’s screenplay has a surprising amount of emotional weight. At the heart of the film is a sweet story about friendship and forgiveness, and many of the narrative elements are extremely touching. One of the most stirring is Perro’s back story, an innocent dog who lived a sad life of abandonment and cruelty. Despite his devastating past, Perro is good-natured, optimistic, and proves to be the film’s most inspiring character.

The actors bring their animated counterparts to life, and the voice performances are strong. From suave (Banderas) to heartfelt (Guillén) to delightfully mischievous (Pugh), there isn’t a misstep by anyone in the cast.

The idea of a fearless hero suddenly being afraid gives the film a layered richness that makes “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” more interesting than other animated films. In fact, it’s far better than expected.

By: Louisa Moore

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