Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
Cinema’s most famous swashbuckling feline is pouncing back into theaters after a surprisingly long nap. It’s been 11 years since the original Puss in Boots and 12 years since the last Shrek film. The Shrek universe (SCU?) has always been an endlessly fun sandbox for storytelling, blending classic fairy tales with contemporary and meta humor. Puss and Boots: The Last Wish manages to capture some of that charm in its paws, but it also bares its teeth with a sharpness of tone and humor that parents may find unwelcome.
The story begins with the legend of Puss and Boots having grown, along with the outlaw cat’s ego. When a battle against a giant goes awry, Puss dies for the 8th time, leaving him with only his ninth and final life. His nine-lives safety net is gone, and so is his confidence and swagger. Only by locating a mythical wishing star can he regain his lost lives and become the legendary Puss and Boots once more. But he’s not the only fairytale character on the hunt for that final wish.
There’s a moment early in the movie when Puss pauses mid-combat to slurp a cup of coffee. His eyes bulge and he launches a chaotic, caffeine-fueled attack. The moment works as a metaphor for the film’s pacing. There’s a frantic quality to The Last Wish. There are some calmer moments scattered throughout, during which the story delves into some surprisingly mature (perhaps too mature) themes, such as mortality and abandonment. But a hyper-paced action scene is rarely far away, ready to explode with stimuli-overload. The movie balances right on the line between high-energy fun and exhausting, and personal tastes (and age) will likely determine which side of the wall it lands on.
The Shrek franchise has always been amusingly irreverent and edgy with its humor, but The Last Wish sometimes pushes the limits with its sharp and almost cynical tone. The most noticeable way the barbed tone manifests itself is through the dialogue. The characters speak horrendously to each other (see “Content to Consider” below). Whereas the Shrek movies were often laced with clever dialogue, The Last Wish relies on insults. A character will look at another character and declare, “you idiot,” and that’s it. It’s meant to be funny, but it just comes across as mean. In small doses, this tactic wouldn’t be a problem. But almost every single conversation between any of the characters has the same prickly tone, filled with rude jibes and insults.
Overall, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is fine. I didn’t hate the film. It has some fun moments. A Jiminy Cricket-inspired character is hilarious, and a wolf bounty hunter stalking Puss is a genuinely intimidating antagonist (to the point that it may be too much for younger viewers). And, of course, Puss himself has a fun personality with lots of potential. There is a delightful movie in there somewhere, but unfortunately, it’s pushed to its last life by a joyless and cynical tone. I suppose the sharp and bitter edge is fitting for a story about a cat hero, but this movie reminds me why I’m a dog person.
Engage The Film
Embracing Life Rather than Wishing it Away
A “wish” is forward-thinking, built on the hope for a different (presumably better) future. In most fairytales, a wish is depicted as a wholly positive power. But in this film, the wishing star has an almost sinister quality. The wishing star itself is presented as neutral, but what it compels characters to do is clearly wrong. Fittingly, the star is in the middle of a dark forest that shifts the pathway according to which traveler is leading with the map, presenting uniquely personal challenges and obstacles.
Each of the groups in pursuit of the wishing star—Puss, Kitty Softpaws, Goldielocks and the Three Bears, and Jack Horner—already possesses the thing they want to wish for. Yet, by focusing on the future, they are blinded to the blessings that already surround them. In Scripture, James wrote, “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). Jesus also said, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). The movie is a reminder to be present and appreciate life rather than wasting it away by constantly wishing for more.
When I asked my children what the message of the movie was, they said, “That it is okay to be afraid.” Puss’s persona is built on fearlessness. His theme song, which he performs several times throughout the film, has the repeated chorus refrain, “Who is your favorite, fearless hero.” Yet, most of his actions are driven by fear. He is afraid of settling down with Kitty Softpaws and of being on his “last” life. His character growth is mostly to overcome these fears. But in another sense, it is accepting that it is okay to feel fear. The Bible acknowledges that fear is a natural result to scary situations, but that Christians need not fear, for we don’t face challenges alone: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).