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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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The nuances of ‘Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers’

Before reviewing Disney’s “Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers,” let’s take a look at one specific scene. At one point the titular duo gets cornered during an attempted locker room heist by a DJ, who also happens to be a snake. To distract from their theft, Chip and Dale freestyle rap about how they do not eat whales, what part of the whale they would hypothetically eat and how hard it is to break the pattern of rhyming “Dale” with “whale.” After laughing for five minutes straight, I asked myself, “how did the movie even get to this point?” 

Allow me to catch you up… In this reboot of Disney’s classic cartoon, Chip and Dale (voiced by John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, respectively) are not the rescue rangers we know and love, but actors who portray them on the screen. Decades after splitting up, due to creative differences, the two chipmunks investigate the disappearance of their friend and co-star. Over the course of their investigation, the rodents meet a colorful cast of characters ranging from a live-action police officer and super fan named Ellie Steckler (KiKi Layne) as well as a muppet gangster (Keegan Michael-Key), a clay-mation police captain (J.K. Simmons) and multiple characters voiced by Seth Rogen. I would be remiss to mention the cast and not the various cartoons making guest appearances within the movie; characters ranging as far as My Little Pony to South Park pop-in throughout the film.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and found it hilarious. The film’s stars deliver incredible voice performances, but it was the writing that made their interactions shine. The screenwriting was the best part of the film. The writers never allowed any stand-alone pop-culture references to be used as a joke, instead, they added subtle (or not so subtle) jokes towards whatever they were referencing. Despite this, some references still felt a little nuanced for a casual audience, especially for children. While children may enjoy the silly chipmunk antics, the commentary on the inherent creepiness of realistic animation might be lost on them. 

However, half-way through the movie, I was rolling with the punches. I had grown used to the references; until the aforementioned rap scene. This is the moment when I accepted the movie for what it was: a goofy movie justifying its existence with its self-awareness. 

Multiple times through the movie, characters lament that nobody wants a Chip n’ Dale reboot, a sentiment the writers knew while creating the movie. For all intents and purposes, this is not a “Rescue Rangers” movie, but one that calls itself “Rescue Rangers” and delivers a great film about fame and the monotony of life. Months after release, I don’t remember the film for its plot, but more so for how fun of a movie it was, with the plot serving more as a conveyor belt that brings the audience from joke to joke. I enjoyed the movie greatly, but I still believe it had a required level of knowledge required to fully experience it, which I feel holds it back from its full potential.

Title: Chip N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers

Starring: John Mulaney, Andy Samberg, KiKi Layne, Will Arnett

Director: Akiva Schaefer

If You Like: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5