PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Anthony Mendez
Directors: Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado
The Last Wish has everything. It’s stunning to watch, effortlessly funny, and smartly written. Plain and simple, it is top-tier filmmaking and one of the best films of the year. I could not contain my joy while watching, and I was absolutely mesmerized by the gorgeous visuals. The Last Wish shows how films with families and children in mind do not have to be dumbed down or avoid complex issues to be successful, and I hope it sends a signal to studios to continue pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling.
DreamWorks Animation always seems to be an afterthought to Disney and Pixar, and movies like The Last Wish are constant reminders why they shouldn’t be. Not only is this sequel’s dual animation style impressive, but so are the adult themes that could make the “wisest” of us appreciate the one life we have. Kids will love the family-friendly shenanigans that Puss (Antonio Banderas) embarks on, adults will love the intelligent references and anime-style action, and ALL moviegoers will appreciate how well crafted the drama, comedy, and horror (yes, horror) are blended in this end-of-year surprise hit.
As I get older, I’ve found that most animated movies aren’t for me. The messages for today’s youth either don’t resonate with my own childhood, or, generally speaking, they are too kid-centric, focused more on selling toys than telling a good story. The Last Wish is a rare exception. While it maintains Shrek’s winning brand of referential humor, it’s also surprisingly dark, featuring hints of adult fare like Logan and Snatch. Themes of mortality and family are approached with remarkable maturity, and The Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura) is an absolute scene-stealer of a villain. Overall, it’s a beautifully animated surprise for cynical (and childless) adults.
Never in my wildest imagination would I have ever thought I would be writing this, but The Last Wish is one of the year's best movies. The animation is striking and the film’s adventure is a lot of fun, but what really got me was the emotional core of it all. For a film targeted towards families, this film has stuff to say about mortality and the way we use the time we have on this planet. I didn’t expect a Shrek spinoff to make me feel the things this movie made me feel.
Like Shrek 2 before it, The Last Wish takes everything that worked about its predecessor and turns it up a notch. Unlike Shrek 2, however, its predecessor is not an undisputed classic, so there’s no debate about which is the series’ better movie (it’s this one). With stylistic animation clearly inspired by Into the Spider-Verse, a genuinely heartfelt story in which almost no characters are one-dimensional, and maybe one of the year’s outright best villains, The Last Wish is a genuinely great time making a late-breaking push as the dark horse for Best Animated Feature.