This animated spin-off from the completed Shrek trilogy presents the origin story of the green ogre’s sidekick, Puss in Boots. Puss in Boots is as irresistible as the latest viral cat video prowling the Internet and has the added slam-dunk of Antonio Banderas purring the voice of the title character. DreamWorks’ hero’s tale is bolstered by solid storytelling and voice work, more of the deranged fairy-tale mash-ups found in the Shrek movies, and an abundance of cuteness certain to melt the hearts of cat lovers everywhere.
Banderas’ Puss is a versatile construction: He is at once a lover and a fighter, a braggart and a pussycat, part Zorro and part Pepé Le Pew. His pairing with Salma Hayek, who provides the voice of Kitty Softpaws, his feline friend and foe, is a match that is muy simpatico. In addition to sword fights and other forms of derring-do, the characters partake in a couple of wonderfully choreographed dance numbers. The plot takes us back to Puss’ childhood in an orphanage in San Ricardo, a village that looks like the set for a spaghetti Western rather than a place a few kingdoms over from Shrek’s magic forest. Here, Puss becomes best friends with Humpty Dumpty (Galifianakis), a large egg who eventually tricks the cat into a bank robbery that goes wrong, sending the captured Humpty to prison and Puss into exile. Now out of jail and still with a chip on his eggshell shoulder, Humpty inveigles Puss to join his plot to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) and then climb into the clouds to collect the eggs laid by the golden goose.There’s a lot of chase and rescue to fill out the meager storyline, and with another set of voice actors, Puss in Boots might have dragged its heels. But the seductive interplay of Banderas and Hayek, the barely recognizable vocal contributions of Galifianakis, and the Southern backwoods speech of Thornton and Sedaris all keep us attuned to the events on the screen. Visually, the animators use the 3-D effects inventively in the sword fights, dance sequences, and ascension into the clouds, but the light-reducing effects of today’s 3-D glasses are still a major impediment to the overall experience. Puss in Boots is cute and entertaining but hardly purr-fect.