‘Puss in Boots’: A fun feline fairy tale, critics say
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Spinning off from the popular ‘Shrek’ films, the new animated tale ‘Puss in Boots’ tells the story of how its feline title character, voiced by Antonio Banderas, first became a swashbuckling hero. With generally favorable reviews from movie critics and predictions that it will win the box office this weekend, ‘Puss in Boots’ could turn out to be another franchise for DreamWorks.
The Times’ Kenneth Turan says ‘Puss in Boots’ is ‘a treat to experience visually (especially in lively 3-D) and verbally’; he goes on to call it ‘a family film where the adventure and invention never flag and the tongue-in-cheek humor doesn’t linger far behind.’ Turan notes that the film draws plenty of inspiration from James Bond spy flicks, Sergio Leone westerns and most of all film noir: ‘Think of this Puss as being sired by Raymond Chandler with Mother Goose and you’ll begin to get the idea.’ He adds, ‘Perhaps the most engaging thing about ‘Puss in Boots’ is that it never takes itself too seriously.’
Stephen Holden, of the New York Times, calls the film ‘a cheerfully chaotic jumble of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters parachuted into a Spanish storybook setting.’ Holden finds the story lacking — ‘It is too complex and has too many changes of heart to be a smooth, coherent ride’ — but commends the visuals. Holden writes, ‘The movie’s most remarkable feature is a spectacular use of 3-D that raises the bar for a mainstream animated film. Avoiding the usual stereoscopic cliches, ‘Puss in Boots’ often looks multidimensional, especially its action sequences. ' In the Washington Post, Michael O’Sullivan says the film ‘is almost shockingly good. And not just because a lot of you will approach it with lowered expectations.’ O’Sullivan appreciates the filmmakers’ taking the story in a different direction than the ‘Shrek’ series and applauds the voice talent, which also includes Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis and Billy Bob Thornton. ‘There’s no stunt casting, just good, solid performances, even down to the bit parts,’ he writes. O’Sullivan’s only quibble is that the film’s humor occasionally ventures too far into grown-up territory.
USA Today film critic Claudia Puig deems ‘Puss in Boots’ a ‘lively romp [that] is well-acted, cleverly written and vividly rendered, despite an over-the-top finale.’ In particular, Puig digs Banderas’ ‘impeccable comic timing and lyrical Spanish accent.’
Not every critic left the theater a cat fancier, however. Tasha Robinson, writing for the Onion’s A.V. Club, concedes that the film ‘does 3-D right,’ with dynamic camerawork and perspectives, but laments that the plot and characters don’t measure up: ‘Even for a ‘Shrek’ spin-off, ‘Puss in Boots’ is mighty thin gruel, based more in outsized emotion than actual narrative.’
And the New York Post’s Lou Lumenick pans ‘Puss in Boots’ as a ‘relentlessly mediocre cartoon.’ Lumenick calls Galifianakis ‘grating,’ the 3-D ‘eye-straining’ and the film itself ‘listlessly directed’ by Chris Miller. Meow!
-- Oliver Gettell