Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Puss in Boots

Title: Puss in Boots

Dude, Really? Hey, I had a chance to take my kids to a preview screening. Sue me.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three magic beans out of five.

Tagline: "Looking good never looked so good."

Better Tagline: "For everyone who's ever wanted a furry version of Fernando Lamas."

Brief Plot Synopsis: Swashbuckling feline thief runs afoul of childhood friend and other fairy tale creatures in a quest to find the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.

Who Else Is In This? Why, none other than Zach Galifianakis (Humpty Dumpty), Billy Bob Thornton (Jack), Amy Sedaris (Jill) and Salma Hayek (Kitty Softpaws). Happily, there's no re-enactment of any of the scenes in Desperado. This is a kids' movie, after all.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: While attempting to steal the fabled magic beans from Jack and Jill (here a pre-industrial version of Bonnie and Clyde), Puss in Boots runs afoul of fellow thief Kitty Softpaws, who is hunting for the beans on behalf of Puss's ex-childhood friend Humpty Dumpty. He, in turn, blames Puss for abandoning him and their home town many years ago. Can the two put aside their differences to set right what they made wrong? Do Kitty and Humpty have a secret agenda? And how many cat litter-related jokes will we have to put up with?

About six, as it turns out.

"Critical" Analysis: Not to put too fine a point on it, but feline lothario Puss was the best part of Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third (there was no "best part" of Shrek Forever After, however). Giving the popular character his own movie was a no-brainer, and as a vehicle for Antonio Banderas's exaggerated self-parody, it works well. Mostly.

On the plus side -- and unlike the franchise that spawned him -- Puss in Boots never bogs down in sentimentality or shallow angst. There are some good sight gags, some amusing jabs at feline behavior (which is probably doubly humorous to those who actually own the vile, spitting creatures) and decent character work. Even if I spent half the movie thinking Humpty Dumpty was voiced by Patton Oswalt instead of Galifianakis.

Apparently I have some trouble differentiating between my pudgy comedians.

And another thing I really appreciated about Puss in Boots, it's that unlike the Shrek series, this movie doesn't rely on pop culture gags which are already stale by the time the film hits theaters. Have you watched the original Shrek lately? How's that bullet time gag holding up? The story is mostly straightforward -- as much as these stories can be -- and mercifully free of the kind of anachronistic bullshit that made those ogre flicks such an increasing chore to sit through.

Then there's the 3D. I admit the technology has its place. And at least DreamWorks shot PiB entirely in 3D instead of retroactively converting it, but what's the point? Some kids might be impressed by the disorienting effect of swooping through canyons or fairy-tale villages, other won't. Still others will be fucking terrified.

I mean, these are children we're talking about. The mere fact there's a talking cat swinging a sword around is going to impress the hell out of them right out of the gate. It's unnecessary to fry their synapses before they can even appreciate simple animation. And besides, you set the technology bar this high, the next thing you know they're going to be screaming for immersive virtual reality amusement park rides and birthday parties where every guest embarks on an alternative reality adventure, Total Recall style.

As previously mentioned, Banderas is superb. Dude makes some crappy films (My Mom's New Boyfriend, Two Much, any but the first Spy Kids movie), but he brings some actual heft to the character in a way a fake Scottish accent never could. Misidentification aside, I also really enjoyed Galifianakis as Humpty, whose apparent earnestness is leavened with just the right amount of psychopathic megalomania.

You know, for the kids.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: Unless your kids are absolutely insane for the character, it's a rental.

Puss in Boots is in theaters today. See it in a theater with seats of rich Corinthian leather.

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