Puss in Boots Blu-ray ReviewFebruary 23, 2012
I'd like to begin by saying I'm an unabashed cat lover, so this review may contain some slight bias.
Usually spinoffs of any sort are nothing more than hollow cash grab; a way of milking a successful property for all it's worth. On the surface, one might assume that Puss in Boots, Dreamworks' latest addition to its long running Shrek series, is merely a shell to make money. However, upon watching the film, it becomes incredibly obvious that some actual care and work went into a fairly strong, if not slightly predictable, film.
When Puss in Boots first appeared in Shrek 2, he was introduced as an assassin for hire. Rather than carry on with that frame of storytelling, Director Chris Miller (whom I interviewed about the film) instead wanted to show how Puss came to be.
As the movie begins, Puss (voiced wonderfully by Antonio Banderas) is searching for his next big score. It's not long before he discovers that Jack and Jill (who in the film are re-imagined as an ogre-like married couple instead of the fragile brother and sister duo of legend), have in their possession the three fabled magic beans. Puss reveals that he has been searching for them for over half his life, and though it seems silly, it's true.
While making an attempt to steal the beans from Jack and Jill, Puss crosses paths with a masked cat whose identity is quite a surprise for Puss. What's even more of a surprise is that this masked cat is working with Puss' childhood friend, and now bitter enemy, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis).
Puss and Humpty were at one time the best of friends until growing up got in the way, leading them both down different paths. These differing paths led to a huge clash between the two, a clash that led to Puss being banished and Humpty in prison, and their once perfect friendship has never been the same since.
Humpty claims to want to repair what the two once had, and after much convincing Puss accepts and the pair set off to obtain the magic beans these two often daydreamed about in the days of their youth. Some wounds are hard to heal and the bitterness that tore Puss and Humpty apart still exists and could end up being their undoing.
Puss in Boots is, for all intents and purposes, a pretty well rounded story. We see Puss before he's become a hired killer, and gain insight into his personality, which is far more than one can say about most animated characters or movies in general of late. The film itself is character driven, which causes the viewer to invest and actually care about how things turn out.
Being a part of the Shrek family, the film is obviously going to have its fair share of comedy. The best thing about the humor found in Puss in Boots, aside from a good bit being cat related, is that is also is character driven.
The Shrek series, and modern animation as a whole, relies very heavily on pop culture referencing or songs of the time period. While that kind of humor can make for a good "in the moment" joke or two, it already dates the movie and, at some point in time, people aren't going to get it.
Puss in Boots maintains a sense of humor within its cast and surroundings, adding an almost timeless feel to it that, sadly, many modern animated films are severely lacking.
Adding to this timeless feeling is the almost painting-like quality much of the animation conveys. Buildings and surroundings look remarkable and give the film an almost romantic quality that I wouldn't have expected from a CGI film. The cats, especially Puss, are also quite a sight to behold. The intricate hairs and authentic cat reactions make Puss seem about as real as anything could be. Humans still look less realistic, but the ones here carry over much of the stylized look and feel of the Puss in Boots world and come off as natural extensions of that world.
When it comes to the voice acting, Banderas gives this film his all. He literally is Puss, and infuses the role with every bit of charm and mischief he himself brings with him to every role. Some of the behind the scenes features on the disc give a glimpse into the recording process and Banderas, sword in hand, is delivering every line as if it were the greatest thing he'd ever recited, and it goes a long way to making the character more endearing.
I will say the film is not without its share of flaws. The story, although fine for what it is, is a bit predictable and foreshadows coming events a little too heavily. This also feels like another situation where Galifianakis's true comedic abilities are squandered on a rather ho-hum role. The whole Humpty Dumpty character is given almost as much back story as Puss, but still feels uneven. He's a character laced with moral ambiguity, but much of it feels a bit forced just to progress the story.
Knowing how good CGI Animation looks in Hi-Def, I already knew to expect the film to look quite good. I can honestly say that I was floored by it. There is so much fine detail within the entire picture that it requires multiple viewings just to take it all in. From individual cat hairs to wear and decay on buildings, this 1080p AVC Encode is simply astounding. Color and shadows are just as exquisite, popping in just the right spots and portraying a genuine mood without being overblown.
To go along with the fantastic picture quality, the disc also contains a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that is mesmerizing. The towns seem alive with ambient noise all around and action filling every speaker for a truly entrancing experience. Dialogue did at times seem to be a little quieter than the rest, but it was a negligible amount at best.
Beyond The Feature
The Puss in Boots Blu-ray is absolutely loaded with special features. Most notably is Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos. This short film has Puss come to the aid of a nearby city being terrorized by three baby kittens. Instead of putting an end to them, Puss takes them under his wing. It's a precious little short that adds to the overall value of the releases.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the 'Animator's Corner,' a picture-in-picture feature that can be switched on to play during the entirety of the film. It contains interviews with Director Chris Miller and just about everyone working on the animation side of things. It also includes storyboards, sketches and early renderings showing just how far the finished product came along. I'd love to see something like this become a staple of animated features.
Also exclusive to the Blu-ray is a pretty exhaustive 'Trivia Track' that covers everything from the movie to facts about cats to famous people's quotes about or involving cats.
There's also a slew of Behind-the-Scenes features, games and artwork to go through and digest. It all ranges from worthwhile to meh, but it's nice to see a studio get behind a release and fill it up with extras, all in HD, I might add. The following is a complete list of all the included extras.
I went into Puss in Boots thinking it would be a run of the mill feature that I would at the most enjoy because of the cats. I came away with a surprisingly solid, if a bit simple, story that gave some genuine life and investment into all of the principle characters involved. I'd even go as far as to say I like and prefer it to any of the Shrek films. The film looks exquisite and is a true feast for the eyes. The disc itself features an absolutely stunning PQ/AQ that makes this must own reference material for the techies out there.
The release is also filled to the brim with extras. This is a top notch release and, dare I say it, fun for the whole family. Side note; If this film doesn't make you a cat lover by the credits, then we can't be friends.
- Matt Hardeman
Shop for Puss in Boots on Blu-ray for a discounted price at Amazon.com (February 24, 2012 release date).
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