Among the many fantastic films released in 2022, the animated children’s film “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a surprising standout. “The Last Wish” is more than just a convoluted “Shrek” spin-off looking to leech off of the success of its preceding films. Instead, its elegant storytelling, heartwarming messaging and vibrant animation bring the fairytale to life and make the film a perfect closing number for the 2022 film slate. The new film is also accessible to those who do not recall the events of the previous “Puss in Boots” movies from more than a decade ago, as no prior knowledge is required for audiences to enjoy the adventures of this sword-wielding cat.
Down to the last of his nine lives, the legendary outlaw Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) finds himself forced into retirement, wading aimlessly through life. Grappling with his mortality, Puss embarks on a fantastical adventure to find the Wishing Star, which contains the titular Last Wish and would allow him to restore his nine lives. Joining Puss on this adventure is resentful ex-lover Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek) and eager new friend Perrito (voiced by Harvey Guillén). But hot on their tails are the corrupt pastry magnate Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney) and a vicious crime family made up of Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears, all eager to have their own wishes granted.
As he chases after the Wishing Star with uncharacteristic desperation, Puss forces audiences to consider the real motives behind his yearning to restore his nine lives. What seems like a simple quest to stay alive begins to probe the heavy, all-encompassing query: What is the meaning of life? It might be hard to believe that a family movie can even begin to tackle the nuances of such an essential, human question. But with multiple characters secretly nursing emotional wounds that they believe a singular wish can miraculously heal, the audience is forced to ask themselves who, if anyone, truly deserves to have their dreams come true.
What makes this film truly stand out is its vibrant, illustrative animation style reminiscent of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which redefined the industry four ago. Action scenes jump off of the screen through dynamic movement lines. Vivid pops of color and brush-like textures dominate the senses and immerse audiences into Puss’ fairytale world. “The Last Wish” is an example of animation at its finest: It features visuals that drive storytelling and world-building instead of attempting to feign realism. Animation has capabilities that live action simply cannot replicate, and “The Last Wish” capitalizes on this potential through scenes that look like true art rather than simple movie clips.
But this air of fairytale surrealism does not detract from the story’s real-life relevance. In one scene, Puss is shown to be having a panic attack as he hyperventilates on the ground. A rapid heartbeat overlays the scene, drowning out all other sounds until Puss’ friend Perrito sits down with him. This film’s depiction of a panic attack has received much online praise for its accuracy. Moments like this make “The Last Wish” a refreshing addition to a lineup of animated movies that often feel too separated from reality.
Fans of the original “Shrek” series have grown with each new franchise installment, which is perhaps why “The Last Wish” contains such mature messaging. But while the first “Shrek” movie, released in 2001, was founded on childish humor, it still subverted typical fairytale tropes — depicting an unlikely ogre-princess relationship. Such originality persists in the franchise 21 years later. Those who dismiss “The Last Wish” as a children’s movie are sure to miss out on an entertaining adventure, beautiful visuals and a lesson on enjoying life.
Ashley Guo is an arts & culture writer and layout designer. She previously covered city and state politics as a Metro section editor. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music, swimming, and reading!