The new Dreamworks Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots is about a cat and a hat and is really kind of meritless, unless you're a member of fursuit fandom who can only appreciate Salma Hayek when she's a sultry tabby.
It's not greatly interesting, with the remarkable exception that PiB resurrects the strange sado-sexual dynamic from early Disney animation — a little something I call "the Plutonic Ideal."
Puss in Boots takes place in an undefined Iberian fantasyland where a talking feline reaffirms his friendship with a sentient unhatched egg, who in turn has spent hard time in a Spanish penitentiary for bank robbery. On paper, it's the kind of plot that belongs in a Salvador Dalí pseudo-documentary or chocolate bar commercial.
If Puss in Boots sounds a twinge insane, that's because it is. Yes, compared to prior cinematic incarnations of Puss In Boots, the 2011 film is non-fiction. Those previous flicks? I mean, fucking hell.
I'm going to table my review for a moment to pay homage to those gobsmacking Pusses In Bootses that came before, such as the 1988 Christopher Walken musical (which saw the actor pretending to be a cat the entire film)...
...to "Puss N' Boots" by Adam Ant (hat tip to Vinylrake)...
Anyway, the 2011 Puss in Boots amounts to a tolerable Shrek film. That's saying a lot, given that Shrek revolutionized the art of adding double entendres to kids' movies for the chaperones and promptly ran this formula into the Earth's mantle three sequels later. PiB uses the few remaining fairy tale characters the Shrek films haven't pressganged into mouthing Smash Mouth songs, save One-Eye, Two-Eyes, Three-Eyes and those weird German kids from Struwwelpeter.
When I saw Puss in Boots at 11:30 AM Friday morning, I wasn't hungover enough to find everything mysteriously hilarious, nor was I sober enough for time to pass at an expeditious rate. I was stuck in that pernicious hangover state where reality becomes chronal shoo fly pie. Also, my right contact lens fell out of my eye 45 minutes in, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I spent the rest of PiB wondering if it would be more enjoyable in infrared. For that matter, maybe every movie would be better in infrared? Too many stones left unturned.
But before my movie-going experience devolved into Popeye impressions, I noticed something singularly disturbing in the film's opening minutes. Puss in Boots begins with Puss (who's voiced by the Nasonex bee) bidding post-coital adieu — euphemistically, remember, Shrek movie — to a female house cat (who cannot speak apine-accented English).
This one-night-stand cat has a master, but Puss is treated like a Homo sapien throughout the movie — he's raised in an orphanage, conferred human cordwainery, and tossed in real people's gallows.
Was this an accidental choice, this bold return to the BDSM-tinged days of the Plutonic Ideal — as depicted in cartoons like this — where Mickey keeps Goofy's fellow dog Pluto naked and leashed for God knows what? (I mean, nowadays I just assume Pluto was once like Goofy until he became perpetually strung out on the uppers Mickey foisted upon him.)
Maybe, but Puss in Boots was in production for 2 years, cost $130 million, and was the coordinated effort of hundreds of animators and marketers and Happy Meal toy designers. This return to the Plutonic Ideal could have been lost in the shuffle, but the Shrek franchise has raked in $3 billion for Dreamworks. At this level of blockbuster children's entertainment, nothing can be assumed accidental. Everything is choreographed.
So yeah, Puss in Boots kind of sucked, but it made me want to play Mappy and listen to Depeche Mode. The Brave Little Toaster never did that.
Bottom image via.