Puss in Boots (PG)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Cinemark 16 IMAX, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
Puss in Boots takes arguably the best part of the last two Shrek movies, stretches it as thin as can be, and leaves us hating cats.
Well, maybe not hating cats. But this movie plays like one of Puss' tired, well-worn boots — it feels used and recycled, with a few good kicks but really on its last leg.
This origin story doesn't directly connect to the Shrek movies in which Puss first appeared — why would it, when DreamWorks can entertain the prospect of making more prequels and tie-ins? Instead, Puss follows the title character, who was once a local hero and defender of the innocent, on a quest for golden eggs. To find them he must locate a giant beanstalk, climb it and track down the Golden Goose, from whom the eggs emanate.
In the way are Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris), Puss' old friend and bad egg Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), and a cat named Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). We also meet Puss as an orphan kitten (he's very cute), see how he got his name and achieved his tough-guy persona in spite of his diminutive stature, and watch him execute a number of stunts that no real cat would ever consider doing.
Antonio Banderas continues to thrive as Puss, and the match between Puss' animation and Banderas' voice is still a great fit; when Puss calls himself a "bad kitty," and shows what a cad of a cat he is with the ladies, it's fun to believe it.
That said, Banderas doesn't have much help: The script, and the direction from Chris Miller (Shrek the Third), do no favors to Hayek, Thornton and the rest of the ensemble, and the story sputters instead of thrusting forward.
The Puss/Humpty back-story should have come at the beginning rather than the middle, and dance fights between Puss and Kitty are just silly. Worse, the flat, forced jokes serve no one well, including Galifianakis, who finds a way to turn Humpty Dumpty into Alan from The Hangover. How he does this is hard to explain but fairly obvious after you see the movie. Which I'm not recommending you do.
The 3D certainly isn't worth the extra money, but the animation is crisp, solid and professional. And one thing the filmmakers do well is add little cat-isms throughout, thereby allowing cat owners to take special delight in some of the humor.
You have to be made of stone to not find romping felines cute, and jokes about catnip, "cat people," purring, birds and more succeed in bringing a smile.
All of this is well and good, but a movie needs to be more than cute to be appealing.
One thing that made the first Shrek effective was its ability to tell jokes that appealed equally to children and adults. In Puss in Boots, there's a reference to Fight Club that isn't funny for children or adults.
In other words, it's clear that everything about this franchise has run its course.
The film was originally planned to go straight to DVD. It should have.
Sorry, Puss, but your nine lives are up.