I have always been leery of spinoffs, especially ones that follow a franchise that's seemingly lost its way. Add to that a pair of directors who made the worst of the "Shrek" series -- the third film.
Let's just say, my expectations were pretty low, like in the bottom-of-the-kitty-litter-box low. So imagine my joy when "Puss in Boots" not only steps out from behind the cranky green ogre, but acts like he should have been in the limelight all along -- yes, a pleasant surprise, to say the least.
Antonio Banderas, who brings his familiar Spanish accent to this frisky feline once again, owes much of his success to Johnston McCulley -- you know, the New York pulp writer who created "Zorro" back in 1919.
Let's face it, Banderas has made a comfortable living playing "Zorro" in movies and now basically "Cat Zorro" in these animated films.
"Puss in Boots" has met his match in the form of Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), a talented cat burglar who moves with equal grace and speed. She wears a Mexican wrestler's luchador mask while she's working and makes fun of Puss for prancing around in high heels. From the moment they meet, you know you're in for a catnip treat.
We're also introduced to Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). He and Puss have a long history together, going back to their days as orphans in San Ricardo. Puss tried to go straight (as in not break the law anymore), but Humpty was a bad egg who couldn't help himself and duped Puss into pulling one last big score.
The betrayal separated them -- until now.
A chance to retrieve some magic beans from the notorious outlaws Jack & Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) will bring an uneasy alliance. Their aim is to steal the beans, plant the magic beanstalk, grab the golden goose and save the same village they once betrayed. But betrayal will most assuredly rear its ugly head again.
I know it sounds a bit dark, but an energetic and clever script keeps things lively, and there is no discounting the pure "animal" magnetism of SeÃ±or Puss in Boots. He's one furry little stud muffin, filled with a playful sense of adventure, a love for the ladies and a determination to restore his good name.
I loved this movie!
It's a wonderful journey that stands on its own, thanks to its prequel nature (Shrek and company are never mentioned). But if it is as successful as I think it will be, this will not be the last time we see "Puss in Boots" on the big screen.
And that would be "purrrfectly" fine with me.
Steve Salles can be reached at email@example.com.