“Puss in Boots”
Here’s a fractured fairy tale that is just for fun. But it’s not really for little kids. Though it’s animated, it’s too complicated, and even a little dark. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. We are, however, supposed to root for the debonair, sword-fighting, boot-swaggering, plumed-hat-wearing, swashbuckling, romantic, cosmopolitan Puss. Who is a cat.
Antonio Banderas reprises this tongue-in-cheek role, originally in the “Shrek” series, with just the right mix of bravado and charm. But this character isn’t always virtuous. Puss is raised in an orphanage, where he immediately befriends the egghead, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), who is inventive, intelligent, lonely, and amoral. Both desperate for friends, they become blood brothers, constantly in search for the magic beans which will lead them to the goose that lays the golden eggs. They are constantly stealing beans (and other provisions) from the townsfolk, and though they are both caught and jailed, Puss manages to help the town overcome the threat of a rampaging bull, and the townsfolk are grateful to him, and let him go. Humpty Dumpty is left to rot in his regrets.
Puss is a gunslinger with a sword, a musketeer with panache who can take on a whole crowded saloon of local toughs if he wants, but really, what he’s after, still, is a way to get the magic beans, which happen to be in the possession of…the vile and villainous Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). But his plan is foiled by another rogue cat, Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek), who’s just as intent on stealing the beans as he is. Their adventures lead them back to Humpty Dumpty, now out of prison and eager for another chance at friendship, which Puss reluctantly extends, only to be betrayed once more, this time by everyone.
Yes, there’s the expected spark of romance between the two cat-adventurers, when they’re not busy exchanging barbs and insults, and even sexual-tension swordplay (perfected by Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz in “Pirates of the Caribbean ”). Yes, we manage to plant the magic beans, which takes us up the beanstalk, to the castle in the sky where there is indeed a pursuing giant, but the golden goose isn’t exactly helpless, either.
So it’s either a very creative novelty or a mishmash that disappoints practically everyone. Though it was nominated for a Golden Globe for best animated feature film, it’s going to struggle for an audience, because it’s not designed for children and many adults won’t even try it. But if you’re looking for something a little different, but still cute and harmless, this one just may be your catnip.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas