Having used up eight lives in his swashbuckling adventures, Puss (voice of Antonio Banderas) is forced to retire with one final life remaining. Meanwhile, the Three Bears and Goldilocks (voices of Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, Samson Kayo and Florence Pugh) and 'Big' Jack Horner (voice of John Mulaney) are searching for a Magic Wishing Star will grant its finder anything it desires. With a hooded wolf (voice of Wagner Moura) chasing him, Puss joins forces with Kitty Softpaws (voice of Salma Hayek Pinault) and Perrito (voice of Harvey Gullién) to find the Magic Wishing Star and restore his nine lives...
'Shrek' has always been enjoyably mature fun - sly without being smug, smart without being showy. The sequels have had varying successes, but one thing that's helped sustain it is its choice of voice cast. While 'Shrek' and its spin-offs and sequels do tend to rely on relatively big names, they're chosen wisely. John Lithgow, for example, playing a vainglorious nobleman based on Michael Eisner was a deft touch. Antonio Banderas playing a swashbuckling cat, equally, is a smart move. Sure, he's not exactly stretching himself but the manner in which the character was played for laughs worked.
In 'Puss In Boots: The Last Wish', the themes of the story are much more thoughtful and mature than you'd expect, but not in a way that necessarily alienates younger audiences. Cats, as we all know, have nine lives so what happens when they start to run out? Like any good fairytale, there's a message and a lesson, but this being set in the Shrek-verse, it's going to be damn funny too. In fact, what sustains 'Puss In Boots: The Last Wish' through it is how it can balance the two points so easily without shortchanging one for the other.
Ray Winstone was born to play a London hard 'un version of Papa Bear, while Oscar-winning thespian Olivia Colman is equally well-cast as the gangster moll to him with Florence Pugh and Samson Kayo as Goldilocks and Baby Bear rounding out their team. John Mulaney is anarchic fun as 'Big' Jack Horner, the grubby megalomaniac out to seize all magic while 'Narcos' star Wagner Moura is just the right side of scary as the wolf chasing Puss. Salma Hayek Pinault, equally, is just the right side of sexy as Kitty Softpaws while 'What We Do In The Shadows' alum Harvey Gullién plays the irrepressibly buoyant therapy dog Perrito.
The slight departure from the animation style of previous 'Shrek' movies is an interesting one, and it has more in common with 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse' and Netflix's 'Klaus'. There's a storybook / painterly vibe to it, but still plenty of space to give it a comedic edge. Puss' long beard is a constant source of amusement, to say nothing of the big giant eyes that both Puss and Kitty Softpaws deploy at every available moment. At just over 100 minutes, 'Puss In Boots: The Last Wish' does tend to overstay its welcome and there are some moments that probably could have been culled. Yet, it's a small enough complaint in an otherwise deftly told, smartly made animated comedy-adventure.