Puss in Boots

I occasionally run into someone with whom I went to high school who usually recognizes me before I recognize them.  This comes from my limited capacity to remember faces.  If I see you every day or fairly often, I’ll be able to retrieve your information from my memory; but if it has been 20 or 30 years since last we saw each other, you’re info is filed way back in the cabinet of my mind.  Besides the mild embarrassment over not remembering them, these meetings can be very awkward.  In the two or three decades since last we met, we’ve both changed in uncountable ways, experiencing untold numbers of highs and lows.  Neither of us are that high school senior whose biggest worry was what college to attend or where my first real job was going to come from.  Now we’re faced with mortgages, aging parents, divorces (sometimes more than one) and children getting married and/or divorced and having children of their own.  That’s a great deal to cover in the produce section of the grocery store.  This week’s movie has a pair of old friends who meet after many years apart and discover just how difficult it can be to start again.
 
Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) is looking to pull off the biggest heist of his career:  Steal the three magic beans from the oafish Jack and Jill (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), go to the giant’s castle in the sky and take as many golden eggs laid by the magic goose as possible.  His plans are interrupted by the appearance of another thief.  A cat with amazing acrobatic abilities and nearly equal swordsmanship shows up and thwarts his efforts.  After a chase and barroom dance battle (it was a Tuesday night after all), Puss discovers his nemesis is Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Selma Hayek), a thief with remarkable talent who is working with an old friend of Puss, Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis).  Puss and Humpty were raised in the same orphanage.  Puss would protect Humpty from bullies and Humpty would include Puss in this wild adventures and testing his inventions.  Humpty had a dream of finding the magic beans and going to the castle in the sky, becoming rich and famous and able to leave the orphanage.  The pair would steal beans from anyone in town and see if they were the magic beans but they never were the right ones.  When a bull rampages through the streets of town, Puss is able to stop it before it hurts an old woman.  He is hailed as a hero and receives his boots.  Because of this, Puss in Boots decides to stop stealing and instead become a hero of the people.  Humpty continues his larcenous ways, leading to a falling out between the friends but not before Puss is accused of being a thief as well.  He leaves town an outlaw.  Now, seven years later, Puss in Boots and Humpty Dumpty, along with Kitty Softpaws, are together again on a quest to steal the magic beans from Jack and Jill, get the golden eggs and repay their home town for all of Humpty’s mischief.  Unfortunately, old wounds run deep and not everyone is telling everyone else the truth.
 
I really, really wanted to love this movie.  It has everything that should make it a homerun for me:  A character with which I’m familiar and like, the “Shrek” creative team, excellent voice casting, fairy tale underpinnings, and a skewed look at classic characters.  It all should have added up to be a terrific film.  Unfortunately, “Puss in Boots” is a bit too long and a great deal underwhelming.
 
The movie looks amazing as you would expect a Dreamworks animation would.  The colors pop and the texture and detail on everything from Puss’ fur to Humpty’s cracked shell shows the kind of attention is paid to the minutiae.  It’s too bad the story and humor was what got ignored.  While the film goes to great lengths to establish the relationship between Puss and Humpty, taking a good 10 minutes to give us their backstory, the meat of the movie is related more like vacation home videos.  The characters go from one locale to the next and while some of them are fantastical destinations (like the giant’s castle in the sky) the destination isn’t worth the trip.  The film also lacks an insane sense of humor.  If you think back to the original “Shrek,” that film took the whole idea of the fairytale and turned it on its ear by throwing in pop culture references and bombarding the audience with rapid-fire one-liners.  “Puss in Boots” takes a more direct and story-driven approach to the humor, only briefly skirting the kind silliness that made “Shrek” so appealing.  Because of this, the film delivers only mild chuckles as opposed to full on belly laughs.  With minimal humor and so-so storytelling, “Puss in Boots” never really connected and got me to care about what was happening.  While I noticed some of the children in the audience got very excited about some of the characters’ adventures, there were some audible sighs of boredom from their parents.
 
“Puss in Boots” is rated PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor.  There are some sword fights and gunplay in the film.  There are also some moments where characters are holding on for dear life from a bridge as well as falling from a great height.  There is one scene where Puss licks himself in an inappropriate place but it is more suggested than shown.
 
Originally slated as a direct-to-video release for 2008, “Puss in Boots” has been in the works since the 2004 release of “Shrek 2.”  It has gone through numerous revisions and storylines in that time.  With all that effort, I’m surprised this was the best they could come up with.
 
“Puss in Boots” gets three guitars out of five.
 
A comedic caper, a holiday hammering and a familial farewell are on tap at your local multiplex this week.  For the movie I see and review.
 
Tower Heist—When a billionaire steals their retirement money, the workers at a luxury condominium come up with a plan to even the score.
 
A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas—John Cho and Kal Penn return for some yuletide high-jinks in the third installment of the popular stoner comedy series.
 
The Way—After arriving in Spain to recover the body of his dead estranged son, a widower sets off on the "Camino de Santiago" pilgrimage to finish his son’s journey.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Have a question or comment?  Send it to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.