The Shrek universe’s favorite anti-hero feline, Puss in Boots, gets an existential crisis in his second solo adventure, Joel Crawford’s The Last Wish. Eleven years after the orange tabby’s first side picture and fifth inclusion of the Shrek movie series, he’s still impressively got it.
I love when successful franchises feel comfortable enough to experiment with their themes and stories when they don’t have to worry about box-office performance. Peter Hewitt’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) was a clever metaphor for limbo and the after-life, while The Last Wish is actually not much different. Along with one of the most colorful, exciting opening sequences I’ve seen in a while, Crawford’s animated fantasy might be one of the best animated efforts from 2022.
As we all know in myth, cats have nine lives, and our protagonist Puss (voiced as usual by Antonio Banderas) is informed by a local animal doctor that he has officially used up eight of them from his wild life as a vigilante on the run. The doc’s best advice is to consider retiring and transitioning into a “lap cat” for a nice, older human.
Initially offended at the suggestion, Puss changes his mind when he has a run-in with a spooky, cloak wearing wolf (Wagner Moura) who is a little too aware of Puss’ mortality. Now suddenly feeling vulnerable, the feline reunites with old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and a misunderstood pup called Perro (Harvey Guillén) to find the certain star to make a legendary “last wish” for more lives.
Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo voice Goldilocks and the three bears, while John Mulaney delivers an Ed Wynn-esque voiceover as “Big” Jack Horner, all of whom are also after the last wish. As someone who hasn’t seen a new animated family film since probably the first Puss in Boots spin-off, but recently became an aunt, I now have a revamped appreciation for family friendly entertainment.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish isn’t anything super subversive or irreverent, but it is fun and in the traditional fairytale way. Puss and Kitty have a great tongue-in-cheek comradery — you can tell Banderas and Hayek are having fun with their vocal performances. Pugh, Mulaney and Moura are wonderfully sinister as the baddies.
There are token references to grown-up classics the parents will recognize, while the vibrant faux-hand-drawn animation for some sequences in the same vein as Sony’s Into the Spider-verse (2018) encourage a fresh look.
Though I found Guillén’s Perro a little too reminiscent of Josh Gad’s Olaf in Disney’s Frozen (2013), The Last Wish would do just fine for the families who enjoy cats, Shrek-adjacent humor and plenty of classic fairytale references.