Everyone’s favourite fugitive is back at DreamWorks – no I don’t mean Alec Baldwin is doing another Boss Baby movie. That would be as mad as continuing to make Rust.
12 years since Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) last rifled through the litter tray to dig up the dregs of fairy tale characters (Jack and Jill anyone?), he goes back to the well and dredges up Jack Horner (John Mulaney, hopefully a reference to the song White Lines) – who, in self-referential Shrek style, points out that he’s not even from a fairly tale but a nursery rhyme.
Jack is joined by two more sets of villains: Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo) and Death (Wagner Moura) – a wolf armed with a sickle, presumably to go under Puss’ chin. He stalks the Stabby Tabby who is down to the last of his nine lives, revealing all his deaths in a montage that proves to be the only real joke in the film.
The rest of the lengthy 100-minute runtime is padded out by featureless adventure and the same Goldilocks gag repeated ad nauseam without ever getting it just right. As in his first solo outing, Puss proves a pale protagonist compared to the reluctant hero that is Shrek. Puss is a great sidekick backed by two lesser sidekicks: love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and off-theme therapy dog Perrito (Harvey Guillén).
Goldilocks is by far the most interesting character and gets a surprisingly strong arc, while the Wolf makes for a striking and scary villain with the reality of mortality in his blood-red eyes. There is a good film in here about the two of them, but most of it is lost to boring moggy backstory (surely no kids or adults want to see cats squabbling over who left whom at the alter) and the superfluous Jack Horner, who should have been left in the corner.
This leaves us itching for the colourful action sequences, rendered in Spider-Verse-style animation that shows there’s more than one way to skin a cat; unfortunate then that the multi-villain problem is more in line with Spider-Man 3. There are some clever references ranging from Sergio Leone and Francis Ford Coppola to Jimmy Stewart and Nic Cage, but ultimately this feels like a missed o-purr-tuna-ty.