Dreamworks’ latest addition to the Shrek canon, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, is one of the franchise’s strongest stories yet, as it gives the titular feline hero a swan song that’s excellently animated and narratively rich.
The film catches fans up with the legendary Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) after his latest battle puts him on his last life, making him a prime target for Death himself (Wagner Moura). With few options, Puss reluctantly decides to hang up his feathered cap and cape and live a less adventurous life as a lap cat. However, his spirit for adventure reignites after hearing about the Wishing Star, which grants a wish to those who find it. Unfortunately, the Wishing Star also attracts the attention of nefarious fairy tale characters, including Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her criminal family of bears and “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney). Thus, Puss is forced to team up with his old rival, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and new ally Perro (Harvey Guillen) in a race to find the star.
Although The Last Wish is likely not the last time we’ll see Puss in action—especially since the film sort of leads into the next Shrek film in its final moments—it does feel like a fitting final solo outing. The premise of Puss fighting on his last life and no longer being able to laugh in the face of death raises the stakes higher than ever before. With Death literally on his tail throughout and acting as a looming threat, fans really get to see Puss be more vulnerable than usual. He’s finally forced to confront death in a way he’s never had to think of before and it’s a major driving force for him throughout his journey. This results in a surprisingly emotional and character-driven story that feels akin to more Western-inspired modern stories like Logan.
Banderas provides some of his best voice work for the character yet as he elevates the emotional realizations that Puss has about his life and brings that signature charm that ignites that adventurous spirit. The Last Wish is a perfect reminder of why Puss is one of Banderas’ most beloved characters and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing Puss jump back in the saddle for one last adventure. It truly feels like that one last journey for a hero adding to the emotional connection that viewers will have with Puss in the film.
Also, it makes Puss reuniting with Kitty perfectly fitting. While still proving herself to be a formidable fighter, Kitty also adds to Puss’s ongoing crisis of understanding what defines him. She constantly grounds Puss in the right ways and plays a big role in the film’s big themes about the meaning and value of life. Plus, Hayek delivers a great performance as well, bringing some good heart and humor to all of Kitty’s lines.
The new characters also play a great role in Puss’ journey either by adding some heart to Puss’s moral dilemma surrounding death or acting as fun obstacles with some standout moments. Perro is a constant delight with the level of hilarious gags he brings, but he can also be a strong part of Puss’s personal journey. He adds some good heart to some of the film’s toughest moments and acts as a warm grounding force for Puss. As for the villains, Goldilocks and her criminal family of bears are simply fun antagonists that bring some laughs as well as a good subplot surrounding the Wishing Star that has some good heart to it.
“Big” Jack Horner is pretty much your standard nefarious villain, but has plenty of hilarious scenes that easily could be considered the funniest in the film—especially when he’s chatting with a certain Cricket character. Death is easily the most intriguing baddie of The Last Wish though, as his chilling presence immediately makes you uneasy when he enters the frame and he’s quite the nasty fighter as well. Moura’s voice work really gives the character a terrifying persona right from his introduction and his constant appearances throughout feel perfectly haunting and help make Puss’s looming fear of death a consistently present theme.
Amongst the strong narrative is some of Dreamworks’ best animation and action yet, as they utilize some modern techniques to put a fresh coat of paint on their signature style. Along with a strong color palette and realistic textures that enhance the character designs and stunning environments, The Last Wish features some stylized action that really ramps things up. There’s some noticeable pacing changes and camera movement that make the action much more engaging—especially in the thrilling opening fight sequence. The fights feel bigger in scale and are made better through the emotional stakes of Puss being on his final life. The Last Wish is exactly the kind of action epic fitting for a hero like Puss and Dreamworks pulls out all the stops to make it an eye-catching and engaging animated ride.
All in all, The Last Wish is Puss in Boots’ greatest adventure yet and one of the best stories in the Shrek world. It delivers epic action that evolves Dreamworks’ animation perfectly and a final hero’s journey that closes Puss’s solo story on an emotional, thrilling, and fun high note.