Put on your boots and get ready for an emotional rollercoaster, because Puss in Boots is back. After 11 years in hibernation, all was seemingly lost for any hope of a second edition to the Puss in Boots franchise. After such a well-received first film fans were left disappointed that a follow-up film wasn’t in the works. However, the wait is finally over, and with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish we are treated to a new and surprisingly adult adventure.
Puss decides to recover a fallen star with the ability to grant one wish in order to wish for his nine lives back. This star is hidden deep within a dark forest, leading him on a treacherous journey stalked and ambushed, by others who want the wish for themselves.
As a children’s film, Puss in Boots delivers when providing the tell-tale entertainment that the audience expects from a children’s film. However, it is distinctly set apart from the crowd by its ability to use challenging language and story-telling for younger viewers. With witty one liners and sensitive topics, this film experiments with more mature themes not typically found in children’s media. Personally, I think this approach is refreshing and drives home the notion that children are far more capable of understanding and appreciating complex narratives than adults give them credit for.
Puss faces a character named Death, who charges that because Puss has wasted his last eight lives he must not care for them, and that Death will take away his final life as a punishment for his recklessness. Death stalks Puss for the entirety of the film and forces him into a state of pure anxiety, eventually leading to Puss having a panic attack.
As one of the first depictions of a panic attack in children’s cinema, it could have been easily sugar-coated to suit the audience. However, because it was such an accurate representation and portrayed a panic attack so effectively, the audience could really understand and empathise with Puss, encouraging younger children to comprehend emotion. Even older audiences benefit, as by having such an accurate depiction in such a popular film means the stigma behind anxiety disorders and other mental health issues can be lowered. Casual conversations about anxiety and panic attacks increase awareness, and children and adults alike can begin to understand and empathise with those who experience panic attacks.
The animation style of Puss in Boots is visually stunning and is heavily influenced by the art style seen in Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018). The film’s 2D comic book-style animation is a departure from the photorealistic animation that has dominated recent children’s films such as The Good Dinosaur. It provides an exciting, visually narrative story-telling experience, lending on expressive features and vibrant colours to captivate audiences of all ages.
Along with emotionally mature themes and beautiful animation, the cast-list is stacked with A-listers. Antonio Banderas, as always, plays the ever charming and charismatic Puss in Boots, whilst Salma Hayek, Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, Florence Pugh, and John Mulaney lend their talents to the film, making it a star-studded affair.
Puss has been a popular character ever since the release of Shrek 2 in 2004. Since being given his first spin-off film in 2011, Puss in Boots has only grown in both emotional maturity and popularity. His films have become more sophisticated, each reaching a higher level of story-telling and language than the last. The evolution of Puss’ character and his franchise is a testament to how children’s films can grow with their audience and still remain relevant over time. As a Shrek loving child it’s almost touching to watch the characters you love age as you do.
Definitely didn’t cry during in the cinema surrounded by eight year olds at 11am on a Saturday morning.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is available in cinemas now.
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