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I’ve seen ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ three times and counting

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” was recently announced as a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. It’s a sequel to the 2011 “Puss in Boots” film, which was so culturally impactful that I couldn’t remember anything about it even after I looked up the plot synopsis, despite the fact that I saw it in theaters when it came out. Some may ask: Why wait 11 years to release a sequel to a film almost no one remembers? Why produce a new addition to the “Shrek” franchise years after its time in the sun? Why make “The Last Wish” at all?

I have answers to none of these questions. All I can say is that I’m glad they did.

I’ve paid to see “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” in theaters three separate times. Frankly, I’d pay to see it again. It’s unreasonably good. The animation has received a major cosmetic overhaul since the 2011 prequel. It’s vibrant and stylized, reminiscent of a storybook in the vein of the critically acclaimed comic-book style of “Into the Spider-Verse.” The voice casting is phenomenal. Antonio Banderas reprises his role as the titular favorite fearless hero alongside Salma Hayek Pinault as Kitty Softpaws and their performances are brilliantly supported by a chipper Harvey Guillen, an unrecognizable Florence Pugh and a pitch-perfect John Mulaney as the film’s campy and irredeemable ultimate villain. The score and soundtrack are incredible (I’ve been bumping “Por Que te Vas” all week). The film respects the intelligence of its viewers, keeping the tone light for kids but exploring more serious themes of death, fear, family and abandonment.

Cameos, callbacks and continued storylines reward those who are familiar with the “Shrek” and “Puss in Boots” movies, but “The Last Wish” stands alone as a film. You don’t need to know anything about the franchise to enjoy the movie, except perhaps a basic knowledge of childhood fairy tales and nursery rhymes. The basic plot follows Puss in Boots, Kitty Softpaws and their enthusiastic companion Perrito as they attempt to find the titular Last Wish. Puss in Boots is down to the last of his nine lives, and he needs the Wish so he can continue to be the fearless and heroic legend he’s known as. Also after the Wish are Goldilocks (Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo) — a crime family who attempt to hire both Puss and Kitty to aid them — and Big Jack Horner (Mulaney), who desires the Wish to claim all of the world’s magic for himself alone. Let’s also not forget about the Wolf (Wagner Moura), an undefeatable bounty hunter tracking down Puss in Boots as he and his companions conquer the Dark Forest to reach the Wish.

It’s a classic action-adventure format, deepened by the intricate relationships between the characters. Why does Goldilocks want the Wish so badly? What’s the story behind why Puss and Kitty have split between the 2011 prequel and “The Last Wish”? How is the Wolf able to follow Puss through the Dark Forest? The film, brilliantly paced, gives exactly the right amount of weight to each character as it answers these questions, resulting in an animation masterpiece greater than the sum of its parts.

The “Puss in Boots” films have followed the trend of their “Shrek” predecessors, with the second film far surpassing the first in story and character. “The Last Wish” has cemented DreamWorks as a major player back in the animation game and fully revitalized the “Shrek” franchise in a new decade and for a new generation. In short: It more than deserves the Oscar nomination.

Title: “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”

Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Harvey Guillen

Director: Joel Crawford

If you like: the “Shrek” franchise, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

Contact Natalie Allton at nallton@nd.edu.

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