7.5/10 One of the biggest surprises of 2022, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” comes 11 years after the original “Puss in Boots”, itself a spin-off to the Shrek franchise. While fans have been clamoring for a fifth Shrek film for over a decade as opposed to this film, audiences have been pleasantly surprised at how strong of a film this ended up being, earning its well deserved Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature (although losing to the slightly superior “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”). The first “Puss in Boots” (also nominated for Best Animated Feature, but losing to “Rango”) had a creative story but was nothing special and ultimately forgettable, especially when compared to the first couple of Shrek films (the original “Shrek” was the very first winner of Best Animated Feature). Despite the length between outings, this follow-up surpasses the original in pretty much every way possible. Instead of going for the normal, single style of animation, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” utilizes multiple animation styles, giving the film quite the unique look. During well choreographed fight scenes, the animation style resembled Japanese anime, which worked incredibly well. The score from Heitor Pereira perfectly encompasses the Spanish vibes that Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) and his love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) bring to the table. We even get a catchy original song “Fearless Hero” that is honestly more deserving of a Best Original Song nomination than most of the actual Oscar nominees. Supporting characters are memorable but not annoying, as so many side kicks tend to be in animated films. Perhaps the greatest strength of the entire film is the moral messages the film conveys while also appealing as much to adults as to children. The film teaches lessons about being content with what you have, loyalty and friendship, keeping your ego in check, avoiding taking the easy way out but instead fighting hard for what we want, etc. The inevitability of death also plays a large role (with death as a literal character) and while that won’t resonate as much for younger viewers, it certainly will for older ones. Instead of fighting against death, accepting that it comes for all of us one day and all we can do is make the most of our time with loved ones instead of constantly trying to fight against the inevitable. The voice cast is overall solid (with a couple exceptions) as Ray Winstone (Papa Bear) and John Mulaney (Jack Horner) were the standouts for me. As for what didn’t quite work, Florence Pugh as Goldilocks and Olivia Colman as Mama Bear underwhelmed me and didn’t have as distinct of a vocal performance as the other performers. Despite being more memorable than its predecessor, in a sea of animated films, it didn’t quite stand out to me as much as recent animated films like “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” (which Colman was far more memorable in) or what inches this out as the best animated film of 2022, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”. That being said, to see Dreamworks finally surpass Disney in terms of quality animated films as Disney continues to divisively shoot itself in the foot, is a surprise to be sure…but a welcomed one. While Disney may soon be on its ninth and final life, if Dreamworks keeps this up, I think they will be around for a very long time to come.

#DeathWish2 / #OnceUponATimeInTheDarkForest / #DontPawsThisFilm / #GoldilockedInForAnOscarNom / #PussGalore / #TheFurILiveIn

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