Between Puss in Boots films there was an 11-year gap. 11 years where original voice actor Antonio Banderas (Desperado; Official Competition) played several supporting roles in other Shrek-related projects big and small, but not where the fearsome fighting feline took the lead. Rather than opt for a flimsy tale that would entertain audiences but would be ultimately forgettable, director Joel Crawford (The Croods: A New Age) and co-director Januel Mercado with a script from Paul Fisher (The Croods: A New Age) and Tommy Swerdlow (The Grinch) made something that would push the boundaries of children’s entertainment, making that PG-rating bulge with each meticulously elaborate scene. Riding the line between the silliness of the Shrek Universe from which it came and something far more Grimm, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish explores the value of appreciating where you are and what you have as taking things for granted is an empty, lonely road. With the DreamWorks Animation adventure now out on home video, you can explore all this and more with the litany of included bonus materials.
Though this is an initial review for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, in order to discuss the home release properly, we need to dig in just a little deeper requiring spoiling specific aspects of the film. Now that you’ve been warned, read on, if you dare.
Assassin. Mercenary. Lover. Hero. Swashbuckling tabby Puss in Boots (voiced by Banderas) has been called many names and has lived many lives. Eight of them, to be exact. Now on his last life, in order to escape the clutches of the seemingly unstoppable bounty hunter Wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura), Puss retires to an old cats home, intending for the Legend of Puss in Boots to die with his dignity intact. What he doesn’t plan for, however, is that the enigmatic Wolf isn’t the only one looking for him and that the crime family of Goldie and the three Bears (voiced by Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) want him in order to track down a fabled fallen star. Seeing an opportunity to regain the lives he’s lost, Puss gets back in the saddle, unaware that all he could wish for might well be his already.
Of all the characters that have teamed up with Shrek over the years, I’ve never quite gelled with Puss. Especially since I’ve been a fan of Banderas since Desperado (1995) and I enjoy his comedic, self-deprecating side quite a bit, I’ve always found it odd that it took me until late 2022 to finally watch 2011’s original solo Puss outing in order to prepare myself for The Last Wish. Amusing an adventure as that was, it’s still not something I’d likely revisit unless one of my kids asks to. So when it came time to watch The Last Wish, to describe my interest as near-zero is the closest to capturing the mood. What I was not prepared for was the mature narrative, a deep and dark look at the repercussions of vainglorious lifestyle as he’s literally hunted by Death in form of the Wolf. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out who this film was for — the adults who likely first met Puss in 2004’s Shrek 2 or their children whom might find the whole story a little too much? The mixture of expectation and reaction made for something volatile in my mind, making the film a harder watch as it went along. Yet, the online response has been incredible with critics and general audiences hailing the film’s beauty, its truthfulness, and its daring. My favorite animated films of 2022 include Pompo: The Cinephile, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, The Bob’s Burgers Movie, Unicorn Wars, and Turning Red (among others), so the medium of animation isn’t the issue nor is the exploration of heady topics. With this in mind, and the opportunity for a home release review having come up, I decided to revisit the film with tempered expectations and a grip on the narrative. I can’t say that I would queue this up for fun in the same way that I’ve replayed Pompo, Bob’s, or Turning Red frequently, but in the same way that one might find themselves in the mood for an adult, thoughtful investigation of complex ideas and therefore put on Unicorn Wars, so would I put this on. (Although the inclusion of Harvey Guillén’s sweet Perrito does endear the film just a tad more than even I am willing to admit.)
So, with that in mind, I revisited the film with the feature-length commentary from Crawford, Mercado, producer Mark Swift, editor James Ryan, and head of story Heidi Jo Gilbert turned on. Listening to them discuss the process of breaking, shaping, and editing the story is eye-opening. The intention, hinted at with the words “This is a Fairytale” pasted at the start, is for The Last Wish to be a part of the Shrek Universe while also being something all of its own. They also discuss the intentionality of the darkness of the narrative and the application of the visual framework to convey that, using the painting motif to give it a different language from the Shrek films while also making it look like the drawings in a Grimm Fairytales storybook. With the exploration of intentionality, they point out the many times death is a major component of the story, either by placing a skull near Puss (such as in his opening musical number where it’s behind his head) or creating the illusion of one with blocking and set design, by hiding the Wolf out in the open for fast eyes to see, or intentionally using Perrito (he’s such a good boy) and a dog’s often soft, sweet demeanor as the perfect foil to Puss and Kitty Softpaws’s (Salma Hayek Pinault) cat-like independence and selfishness. My favorite thing about home releases is the opportunity to learn about the filmmaking process and the inclusion of feature commentary often feels like a rarity as more home releases include a trailer, perhaps a single brief behind the scenes featurette, and that’s it. Here, however, there’s so much to learn that where someone such as me found the initial watch discordant in seeing how the pieces fit, in learning of the intent, I can finally view the bigger picture and, at the very least, appreciate what is accomplished even if I can recognize that the film as a whole may not be for me.
Perhaps my favorite detail to learn relates to the sequence between the giant and Puss during the opening. As the music blares and the giant attacks, Puss’s movements (and the giant’s) are deliberately staged on beat with the music. I likely wouldn’t have noticed this on my own and it’s mentioned that this is a concept lifted directly from Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver (2017), a film whose entire blocking and choreography is built around the music and score. Details like this are what make commentary tracks so valuable, as they may be the only way that some film fans and cinephiles are able to get to learn about productions. The other bonus features offer their own rewards (looks at the cast at work or offering their thoughts on making the film, three deleted scenes with introductions, an all-cat cam for feline enthusiasts, as well as several artistic projects that may entertain younger fans), but the commentary is where you’ll want to spend your time after an initial watch. There’s so much that they share and this may be the only way to know it.
For this review, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment provided a 4K UHD edition that included both a Blu-ray and a digital copy. Be advised that an issue I’ve had with other digital editions is present here when viewing bonus features through iTunes: all audio and no video. This occurred with several of the “A Cast of Characters” featurettes, the new short The Trident, “Jack Horner’s Line-O-Rama,” and a few others. When I tried to access them via the 4k UHD disc, there was no issue. Another lovely thing about the home release, the bonus features aren’t limited to one disc format. Often with combo packs, the bonus features may be on the Blu-ray only or somehow lock materials to digital or physical-only. That doesn’t appear to be the case here as you can access any and all no matter the format you prefer. Of course, I can’t speak to the DVD edition as that wasn’t included, so keep that in mind. As expected, though, the 4K UHD looks great with this release. I may not fully grasp the intention of using the style beyond “let’s make it look different because we’re telling a pseudo-outside the Shrek Universe story,” but I can’t argue with the at-home representation. Especially in the initial scene with the Wolf and the clown car of characters at the fallen star, the 4K UHD with HDR provides the kind of depth of field and appropriate shading of colors that make one feel that they’re watching something unique.
So, dear reader, where does this leave us?
I’m of the mind that not all films need to be “for me” to appreciate them. I like the overall concepts of The Last Wish more than I do the execution, but that seems to hinge more on how I feel about Puss specifically. If you were one of *many* who made repeat trips to the theater, who has discussed and analyzed everything from the initial musical number to the perfectly executed panic attack scene, who has sought after a stuffed Perrito toy because we know Universal has them: then snagging The Last Wish is an absolute forgone conclusion. For those like me who may need something more than being a completist and making sure you have all the Shrek movies under one roof, the bonus features are where it’s at.
Buy it now, if you dare.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Special Features:
- Feature Commentary – with Director Joel Crawford, Co-Director Januel Mercado, Producer Mark Swift, Editor James Ryan and Head of Story Heidi Jo Gilbert (1:42:22)
- All-New Exclusive Short The Trident – When you’re the legendary Puss in Boots, life and death go paw in paw. In this epic original short, Puss recalls one of his most daring deaths yet. (4:00)
- In The Beginning – Go behind the scenes with the filmmakers of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish to discover how they brought this great tale to life. (9:12)
- Jack Horner’s Line-O-Rama – Jack Horner says it all in this comedic line-o-rama. (1:45)
- How To Make A Paper Perrito – Every hero needs a sidekick and this ‘how to’ will help you create your very own. (7:15)
- Kitty Cam – Sit back, relax and enjoy a festive cluster of kittens as they frolic and play. This cat-stravaganza is sure to entertain for hours. (14:28)
- Fearless Hero Lyric Video – Sing along from home! (3:01)
- Three (3) Deleted Scenes (8:08)
- A Cast Of Characters – You know their voices, now see the faces behind all the beloved Puss in Boots characters. (13:46)
- How To Draw The Purrfect Pawtrait – Join Director Joel Crawford and Co-Director Januel Mercado as they teach us how to draw our favorite characters. (12:02)
Available on digital February 21st, 2023.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD February 28th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official DreamWorks Puss in Boots: The Last Wish webpage.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.
Categories: Films To Watch, Home Release, Home Video, Recommendation, Reviews, streaming
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