Banderas Stretches His Comedy Paws In Long Overdue ‘Puss In Boots’ Sequel

Antonio Banderas first appeared in the 1982 screwball comedy Labyrinth of Passion, directed by Pedro Almodovar, who would become a constant collaborator. But when he was first introduced to American audiences in the 1990s, Hollywood immediately wanted to turn him into the modern-day Rudolph Valentino. His thirst trap looks caught Madonna off guard in the documentary Truth or Dare. Then, there was the 1992 movie The Mambo Kings. It didn’t perform well at the box office but was a critic’s darling. And Banderas’ tragic younger brother to Armand Assante was the role that thrust him on the mainstream.

Banderas had to learn how to speak all his lines phonetically in that movie. For his next big movie in 1993, he played Tom Hanks’ gay partner in Philadelphia. While his role was overshadowed by Hanks and Denzel Washington, he was still able to stand out in some scenes. Then he appeared in Interview with the Vampire and seemed poised to carry his own American movie with the starring role as El Mariachi, aka Manito, in Desperado. The movie was a neo-Western action movie that had elements of comedy and was the first time Banderas appeared with Salma Hayek.

The mixture of ultra-graphic violence, high-octane action and humor got mostly positive reviews and was a modest success at the box office. His casting as Zorro in The Mask of Zorro was inevitable. But it seemed that Hollywood was afraid to let Banderas show off his comedic abilities, even though he was praised for his brief role in the not-so-great Four Rooms. Outside Robert Rodriguez, another constant collaborator, Hollywood was afraid to let him have a lighter side.

Then, came the inevitable sequel to the 2001 Oscar-winning mega-hit Shrek in which Banderas voiced Puss in Boots, originally introduced as an outlaw sent to assassinate the titular character, Banderas’ performance (considered by some to be a parody of his Zorro role) was a big hit as it gave him an opportunity to stretch his legs (or paws) in a lighter role. And Banderas appeared in the other two Shrek sequels and th Christmas TV special Shrek the Halls. So, it was only a matter of time before Puss got his own movie.

Released in 2011 under the title Puss in Boots, it was a smash hit with both critics and fans, making more than half a billion at the box office worldwide and getting an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Movie. The movie paired Banderas again with Hayek as Kitty Softpaws. Intended as both a prequel to the Shrek movies and an origin story to Puss, the movie is considered to be better in many way to the other movies.

So, a sequel was just around the corner, right? A year after its release, scripts were being written and production seemed ready to go forward in the spring of 2014. But almost a year later, Banderas had said the scripts were being restructured. And for the rest of the decade, the movie tentatively titled Puss in Boots 2: Nine Lives & 40 Thieves was in development hell. Then as a new decade began, the sequel now titled Puss in Boots: The Last Wish went into production.

The movie, set after the events of Shrek Forever After, opens with Puss hosting a party in Del Mar where he grew up that becomes so loud it awakens a sleeping giant. As usual, Puss battles and defeats the giant with the same gravitas and ease but he is crushed by a bell as he celebrates. Waking up in the hospital, he’s told that he’s on his last life by a doctor who suggests he retires. A montage of previous deaths plays out as Puss eventually scoffs at the idea of hanging up his hat.

At the bar later he runs into a black-hooded wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura) who seems to be the embodiment of death. He is disarmed and wounded. Puss dumps his boots and finds refuge with Mama Luna (voiced by Da’Vine Joy Randolph) a cat lady who has multiple felines living with her. There’s also Perrito (voiced by Harvey Guillen), a chihuahua, who is a therapy dog, disguised as a cat. He’s very gullible and niave but easily befriends Puss who becomes used to the monotony of being just another housecat over an unspecified time.

But one day, the Three Bears led by Goldilocks (voiced by Florence Pugh) show up at Mama Luna’s forcing Puss to revert back to his old ways. The Bears are a crime family looking to hire Puss for a job. They include Mama Bear (voiced by Olivia Colman), Papa Bear (voiced by Ray Winstone) and Baby Bear (voiced by Samson Kayo). They’re wanting Puss to steal a map of the Wishing Star’s location from Big Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney), who is a pastry chef and crime lord. Yet, they mistake a grave Puss buried his boots and hat in for his own grave and leave.

However, Puss decides to find the map himself and wish for the restoration of his own lives. And by doing so, this puts him back in contact with Kitty Softpaws, who he’s on shaky ground with. They were supposed to get married but both got cold feet. The plot is somewhat similar to the first one has it involves the main characters heading toward a location with a twist that everyone can see coming. But it’s not the destination as much as the trip getting there.

I liked the first movie better but found a lot of joy and humor here. When the first Shrek burst on the scene over 20 years ago, it took a more metahumor that pushed the boundaries of a PG-rating with suggestive innuendos and the scene of Donkey peeing out a campfire. Now, metahumor is too overused in movies, especially animated movies. But director Joel Crawford and writers Paul Fisher, Tommy Swerdlow and Tom Wheeler know the movie’s charm is what makes it better.

The movie pushes the envelope with some darker material such as the Wolf and references to how Puss died in his earlier lives. Then, there’s the history of Perrito, who mentions ignorantly that he was intended to be drowned. These darker elements might turn off some younger audiences, but the movie is rated PG for a reason. But these might open people’s eyes to the fragility of life.

I have to say the animation style used this time around didn’t impress me. It was similar to DreamWorks Animation’s The Bad Guys which I think was necessary. However, I wished they used the same animation style they had on the previous movie as well as the Shrek movies. I understand filmmakers are always trying to push limits and changes in animation. But it’s a very minor change that can be overlooked.

The movie ends with a hint that we may be getting a fifth Shrek movie. Both Shrek and Donkey do appear briefly but neither Mike Myers nor Eddie Murphy are credited as they don’t speak. There’s been rumors that the fifth movie has been stuck in development hell too as Myers’ star has faded. Depending on who you talk to, the movie is in the works to be released in 2024 or 2025.

Overall, it is a good sequel that was worth the wait.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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