Fri 28 Oct 2011
Oh Goody. A spin-off from a franchise that’s become as irrelevant as James Bond has become emasculated. Off-topic. Sorry.
The Shrek series is Dreamworks’ animated cash cow franchise, making over 1.2 billion dollars domestically between the 4 films released between 2001 and 2010. The first was the only one that brought something interesting to the table, its sequels largely being bad copycats of the original. However, while it’s not cheap to make these movies, a smart release strategy and the less than discerning taste of tiny humans allows most well-marketed examples of the genre to net a tidy profit.
Probably sensing that there were only so many times the central voice cast would keep coming back, plans moved forward on spinning off one of the side characters and the result is “Puss in Boots”. Putting aside my own ambivalence towards the swashbuckling cat (voiced by Antonio Banderas), I have no idea what producers where thinking when choosing a director; going with Chris Miller, the guy who made “Shrek 3″, easily the worst in the franchise. Nice choice! (Dammit, when will they invent sarcasm font.)
Under his guidance, what ends up on the screen is a pacing nightmare. Following a decent opening scene, there are thirty minutes of exposition and flashbacks to explain the situation Puss finds himself in. We meet a fellow adventure seeker, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), learn about Puss’ orphanage childhood and friendship with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), and set the stage for the trio to attempt to steal the golden goose at the top of Jack’s Beanstalk. It’s slightly more complicated but I just condensed 30 minutes into one sentence, you can thank me later.
All this talking, talking, talking wouldn’t have been quite so bad if the movie then picked up from there and became the adventure-comedy promised by the premise. What follows the opening exposition is a fun action scene, which is then followed by loads more talking, then cue an action scene, and now we’re back to more talking. Rinse and repeat until the end credits thankfully release us from the theater. (Hearing all the restless kids in the audience was also a sure sign my nitpicking wasn’t just the result of a film critic expecting too much.)
Weighing the good versus the bad leans heavily towards the latter. Watching Miller yet again fail to realize that good filmmaking is about showing the audience a story, not telling it to them, is a pain. Also, although it’s a hallmark of the Shrek films to attempt current humor and fail miserably, it’s too bad that trait followed Puss and his pals (the “Fight Club” reference is more than slightly dated at this point). The 3-D isn’t terrible, but after the first few scenes that do some nice things with the technology, the majority of the film then felt rather flat (pun intended). And if they were going to reunite Banderas and Hayek, I’d rather have seen yet another “Desperado” sequel (yes, I realize what I’m saying with that statement).
“Puss in Boots” was originally going to be a direct-to-DVD affair and the final product just proves that the studio should have trusted their first instinct. A 2 out of 5, while I’m sure this will make plenty of money at the box office (what else can parents bring their kids to right now?), it’s lazy filmmaking from a director who’s now 0 for 2. They say the third time is the charm … I’d rather not test that theory. Unless you’ve got kids who won’t shut up about seeing the film or a particularly masochistic streak when it comes to deciding how to spend $83 dollars on a trip to the theaters, skip this one entirely.