Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a fascinating moment in the history of animated movies.
On paper, this film truly had the odds stacked against it. It’s the sequel to Puss in Boots, a spinoff of a Shrek sequel (which came out over a decade ago, and received mostly lukewarm reviews). Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was also up against some fierce competition, as it was released the same week as Avatar 2: The Way of The Water. The initially limited marketing and random release window certainly didn’t help, either. Despite quite a bit working against it, many were shocked when the film went on to earn $400 million globally (and counting) at the box office. Not only that, but it’s still gaining momentum despite having been out in theaters for a few months already. It’s also garnered almost universally positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as an Oscar nomination. As exciting as this is, it’s easy to wonder: how did the creative team manage to pull this off?
Firstly, it’s important to mention the outpouring of support that The Last Wish has received. Over the past few months, fans have taken to social media to inspire others to support this movie. On TikTok alone, #pussinboots has received over 4.3 billion views. Not only that, but it boasts an impressive score of 4.3 on Letterboxd, landing it in the top 100 movies of all time on the platform. Over on IMDb, many cite this film as a return to form for Dreamworks. Fans have been passionately encouraging others to ensure The Last Wish succeeds, as many believe that it could be the start of a renaissance era for the beloved animation studio. There’s truly no doubt that the consistent buzz surrounding The Last Wish and its excellent word of mouth have given it a well-deserved boost toward commercial success.
There are also many noteworthy movers and shakers included on the creative team. The film was originally led by Bob Persichetti, director of the acclaimed Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Eventually, the reins were handed over to director Joel Crawford, an experienced Dreamworks alum who has worked on many successful animated sequels. The score was created by Grammy award winner Heitor Pereia, who has quite the extensive resume when it comes to creating animated film soundtracks. With such seasoned leaders, The Last Wish was practically guaranteed to be something special.
Another massive win that’s obvious upon first glance is the animation style. In a world dominated by eerily perfect CGI heavy animation styles, The Last Wish’s art style stands out in an incredible way. This film blends together 3D animation with a more traditional hand drawn style. It’s reminiscent of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which isn’t a surprise considering the film’s first director. However, The Last Wish succeeds in making this specific technique its own. Instead of the comic book inspired visuals used in Spider-Verse, this film draws inspiration from paintings for a more fairytale-appropriate aesthetic. While stunning, the animation also does a terrific job of making intense action sequences nearly pop off the screen. Even if The Last Wish’s plot centered around paint drying, this animation team would still find a way to make it entertaining.
Speaking of the plot, what’s it about? Death. Yes, you read that right, it goes there.The story centers around the title character’s nine lives. After using up the first eight in acts of foolishness, he discovers that he only has one life left. Our hero spirals downwards into a colorful rollercoaster of a (profoundly relatable) existential crisis.This is exacerbated by the appearance of a chilling, scythe-wielding wolf who portrays the literal embodiment of death. It’s an absolute stroke of genius to have death depicted as the big bad wolf in a fairytale themed universe (whoever thought of that deserves a raise). The subject matter and story are straightforwardly mature in a way that’s often only hinted at in child-inclusive movies. This film manages to go philosophically deep, while still being considerate of younger audiences. No matter who watches this, they’re guaranteed to get something out of it..
The Last Wish also greatly succeeds in its portrayal of mental health struggles, particularly anxiety. Puss in Boots is known for his bravado to the point where it leans into parody at times. His iconic phrase is literally “fear me, if you dare.” Choosing to tell a story about a presumably fearless male character’s struggles with anxiety is bold and subversive. Even in today’s day and age, it’s still common practice to discourage men from expressing their emotions. Because of this, it’s wildly refreshing to see depth like this from a character associated with cartoonish masculine stereotypes. Despite how radical this concept is, The Last Wish still depicts anxiety in a way that never feels forced, and remains true to character.
Many will agree that expectations for this movie weren’t the highest, due to just how much it was up against. But upon a closer look, it’s easy to put together how this movie managed to snowball into a massive hit. Dreamworks pulled off a seemingly doomed film about a cartoon kitty cat’s existential crisis, and it’s really, really good. That sentence alone should demand respect, at the very least.
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