I noticed the DVD of Puss in Boots as I was about to check out books from the library last weekend, and grabbed it. I remembered having heard very positive things about it when it came out last year, and figured it would be a fun way to spend some family time together today.
It’s an enjoyable movie, but not a great one. I am somewhat surprised at the number of user reviews at imdb.com that give it really high marks, especially for humor. Some reviews mention that it was originally intended to be direct-to-video, and the finished product does seem more the sort you expect from direct-to-video than a true feature film.
As with the Shrek movies (to which this is apparently supposed to be a prequel), there are characters from a variety of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, though they bear little resemblance to the originals. Puss in Boots has not only the title character, but also Humpty Dumpty, Jack (of beanstalk fame), Jack and Jill (here appearing as husband and wife), the magic beans and the beanstalk, a goose that lays golden eggs (actually it’s a gosling, and I don’t think goslings lay eggs, but this film is hardly going for realism), Mother Goose, and even a brief, strange appearance of Little Boy Blue. I’m not sure quite how the giant could have been killed previously by Jack, since Jack doesn’t seem to have ever managed to plant his beans, but again, who’s expecting accuracy here?
Themes touched on include friendship, betrayal, and reconciliation, as well as loyalty and honor. But there’s little depth to its treatment of these themes, and no great emotional involvement for the viewer. Shrek was memorable not just for its humor but for its deft handling of issues related to outer vs true beauty and what it means for dreams to come true. Sure, there are lots of enjoyable animated films that have little depth, but others like Toy Story and Finding Nemo prove that it can be done.