3.5 stars. Rating: PG, for mild rude humor
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 10.28.11
I greeted the impending arrival of Puss in Boots, roughly a year ago, with a skeptical eye.
Popular sidekicks, putting too much faith in their perceived importance, occasionally make a bid for personal stardom. The effort rarely succeeds, although Hollywood seems to encourage such behavior; the television landscape is littered with the remnants of secondary characters spun off into their own shows ... which generally tank in record time.
|Having climbed a most unusual beanstalk and reached a verdant land above the|
clouds, our mercenary heroes — from left, Humpty Dumpty (disguised as a
golden egg), Kitty Softpaws and Puss in Boots — part the vegetation and
glimpse a most amazing sight.
The reason? Basic chemistry. Supporting characters who “work” as part of an ensemble fail on their own because the formula’s other equally important ingredients have been left behind.
Exceptions exist, but several dozen bombs such as The Ropers (from Three’s Company) and The Tortellis (Cheers) exist for every Frasier (also Cheers) and Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). But despite such dreadful odds, folks keep trying.
Nor is the big screen immune to such behavior; The Scorpion King, derived from the recent Mummy series, certainly did nothing for Dwayne Johnson’s career.
Granted, things are different with animated characters: no egos involved. All of which brings us to Puss in Boots, named for the suave feline sword-wielder from the Shrek series, voiced with such hilarious swagger by Antonio Banderas ... and he’s no less entertaining here. Put simply, Banderas was born to voice this character; he’s one cool cat.
Chalk up this spinoff, then, under the “successful” column. Director Chris Miller’s prequel — these events take place before Puss meets up with the jolly green ogre — offers a solid plot and all the snarky humor that has made the Shrek entries so much fun.
That said, Puss’ roster of supporting players isn’t quite as memorable. Zach Galifianakis’ Humpty Dumpty is a pale shadow of Eddie Murphy’s Donkey, and we don’t get nearly as many incidental storybook characters to spice up various scenes. But — credit where due — Salma Hayek contributes plenty of spunk as the saucy, catty Kitty Softpaws, a spirited hellcat with the allure to corral Puss’ roving eye and make his fur fly.
Banderas and Hayek easily hold this film together, even when dealing with the generally bland and annoying Galifianakis.
All good-hearted rogues of classical myths are wronged heroes, and Puss is no different. We meet him as a wanted fugitive; the details behind his “crime” date back to his origins as an orphan in the hard-scrabble town of San Ricardo, where as a kitten he befriends a shunned young egg dubbed Humpty Dumpty. The two become inseparable best buds, sharing a dream involving fabled magic beans that, if planted properly, will produce a beanstalk that rises to a giant’s castle ... and, most importantly, a goose that lays golden eggs.