Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, by Albert W. Vogt III

By now, if you have been reading The Legionnaire for some time, I would think you would know what a release of an animated movie means for me.  If you are new, I will spell it out anyway: I gather my nieces and head to the cinema.  One day, they will get too old for these things, or so I hope.  Until that day, my only hope is that they do not notice whatever new title comes to theaters.  There was little chance of this happening with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.  For a long time, my nieces, especially the youngest one, has been wanting a cat.  Since that is what the title character (voiced by Antonio Banderas) is, it was inevitable that they would want to see it.  I got the adult viewing done the previous day with the unfortunate movie that is Babylon.  If nothing else, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a palette cleanser.  I prefer something a little less ridiculous, but so be it.

Before it really gets into Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the movie gives you the McGuffin straightaway.  There is something about a magical wishing star that lands in the forest and gives birth to all the magic in the realm.  It seems like they were trying for some kind of creation story for the DreamWorks animated universe that I frankly did not understand as I have barely seen any of these movies.  What is clear is that anybody who can find this bright meteorite will be granted one wish.  You can see the appeal.  Such thoughts are far from the egotistical mind of Puss in Boots.  He is busy celebrating his latest exploits in the home of a wealthy aristocrat.  The mood is dampened when said aristocrat returns to find his villa in shambles.  It goes from bad to worse when the revelry awakens a giant in the hills, who attacks the house.  With gusto, Puss in Boots literally swings into action and fells the monster.  Unfortunately, before he can finally make his exit, a church bell falls on him and he dies.  The good news is that he is a cat and is soon revived with the use of one of his nine lives.  The bad news is that he has been reckless with them and he is now down to his last.  The town doctor/veterinarian (voiced by Anthony Mendez) suggests that Puss in Boots retire.  This word is abhorrent to him.  What convinces him otherwise is an encounter with a wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura).  This is not your typical lobo, but is actually death, er, “wolfified,” and he has come to collect Puss in Boots.  Their brief fight proves that he is no match for death and the great Puss in Boots does the unthinkable: he runs out of fear.  He ends up at the home of Mama Luna (voicd by Da’Vine Joy Randolph).  She had been recommended to Puss in Boots by the doctor as a sanctuary where he can live out the rest of his days.  He resists at first, but eventually gives in to the drudgery of the house’s routine with the horde of cats, even growing a large depression beard.  Two things change the mindless routine.  First, a chihuahua disguised as a cat named Perrito (voiced by Harvey Guillén), with his unflappable desire to make friends, arrives at the house.  While he is more or less welcomed, the next ones to call are Goldilocks (voiced by Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears.  They come because they believe that Puss in Boots can lead them to the map that will take them to the wishing star.  When they do not find their target, they believe his is dead and move on.  However, Puss in Boots overhears their plan and decides that he will attempt to get the map on his own, and then wish to have his lives returned.  Perrito tags along, happy to have a friend.  At any rate, their quest takes them to the pie factory of Big Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney).  Note the name.  Big Jack, out of spite for not being recognized for the legendary fairy tale he believes he is, has been rounding up all the magical items he can find.  The map to the star would allow him to finally gain all the power for himself.  He is not Puss in Boots only competitor.  On hand, too, are Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Goldilocks wants it so that she can have a real family of her own, much to the disappointment of her bruin companions.  There is one more.  Just as Puss in Boots is about to snatch the map, out of the box springs his former nemesis and lover, Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek).  Surprise, surprise, she wants the map, too.  Again, Perrito is just along for the ride.  At any rate, Kitty Softpaws and Puss in Boots form a temporary truce and leave together with the map.  In looking at it, which magically changes based on who is holding it, it is evident that they must travel to the Dark Forest where the star is located.  Hence, the chase is on.  As they travel through the forest, they find that the forest morphs to fit the one controlling the map.  As Perrito’s path seems the easiest, they have him be the keeper of the map.  In this manner, there are all sorts of hijinks that happen as they make their way through the forest, but the one making it all the more difficult for Puss in Boots is Death.  In a moment when Puss in Boots becomes separated with the map, and their surroundings change to match his particularly route, Death catches up with our hero.  Believing that he cannot defeat Death, he makes a run on his own that nearly destroys all the good will he had built with Kitty Softpaws and Perrito as they journeyed together.  At any rate, everyone converges at the star where Puss in Boots must inevitably face Death.  He triumphs not through force of arms, but by making Death realize that the cat has changed its spots and is more willing to appreciate the one life he has left.  Death departs, and this allows everyone, including Goldilocks and the Three Bears, who had learned from Perrito how lucky she is to have them, to team up to defeat a now even bigger Jack.  Having done so, since this is a fairy tale, I guess they live happily ever after.

With Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, you are going to get two barrels of Catholic-ness.  Believe it or not, I try not to use this part of my reviews to be a sort of morality police for cinema.  I do think much of the objectionable material you see on film is unnecessary the majority of the time, but that is a separate conversation.  What I cannot let go by, though, without comment is the language in the film.  The film is rated PG, so you would expect something tame in regards to the words spoken by the characters.  I wish that is the case here.  There is a “funny” seen where Perrito has a profanity laced tirade, though done in what is supposed to be a happy tone where every other word is bleeped out.  This one is slightly more tolerable as you can tell you children (or my nieces in my case) that those words could have been anything.  Then again, the question then becomes, but, mom/dad, why did they have to make that noise instead of just saying the words.  Good luck with that one, parents!  Yet, the worst comes when (and please forgive my use of this word) one of the characters says the word “shit,” but again bleeped out.  Given the context, it could have been no other word, and you can even hear the pronunciation of the “s” and “t.”  Do you really need to give adults something that can entertain them as they sit through this with their little ones?  Profanity is something that is frowned upon in Christianity because it does not glorify God.  The Bible basically defines it as such.  Temporally speaking, though I once used such foul language, I came to see it as a verbal crutch.  It is all part and parcel of how far society has fallen from standards we once held sacrosanct that we have to hear such things in movies aimed at kids.

There is one thing that I will give Puss in Boots: The Last Wish credit for, and that is how it handles the star.  Speaking of society being out of phase with principles and values, far too often we have come to view God as some kind of magical, wish-granting being.  When Hollywood attempts to discuss the power of prayer, it is typically reduced to children appealing to something akin to a fairy godmother, an appropriate metaphor given the movie, no?  Just make your wish, kids, and it will come true!  When it does not happen as we hope, the damage done to people’s faith lives is often sadly irreparable.  Unfortunately, I have seen this happen more times than I could want.  What I would like is for people to see themselves more as how the main characters finally do by the end.  All of them have their own wishes for when they get to the star, something that they perceive as lacking in their lives that they feel a magical wish can easily solve.  Faith, on the other hand, acknowledges that life is a journey, a quest of sorts like in the movie.  Walking with God teaches you all the lessons you need.  Also, the things we pray for are always granted, though in ways we may not recognize.  For our characters, it is Perrito’s eternal gratefulness for everything that makes them realize that they do not need the wishes.  They have everything they need, as do we, because that is what God provides.

As I left with my nieces after seeing Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, I naturally asked them what they thought.  They liked it.  My youngest niece asked me to give it a rating out of ten, and I gave it a six.  She replied with, “Okay, not horrible. . . .”  In the end, I think that is what I will go with for what I think about it.  It does not need the bleeps, and thus it makes for a tricky movie for parents.  But, it could be worse, I suppose.

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