After falling under the radar, this animated feature is getting the praise it deserves.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is the sequel to the 2011 animated film “Puss in Boots.” The film is directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado, frequent collaborators with Dreamworks, and stars Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots.

The film follows Puss grappling with the fear of being on his last life. In order to get his lives back, Puss must race against other fairytale characters through a mystical forest to claim the last wish from a fallen star.

With the first movie being unmemorable, the sequel being announced back in 2014 and then winter storms coming in during its theatrical release, this movie, sadly, fell under the radar.

Despite all these setbacks, this animated movie simply rocks. Not only should this movie win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, but it should be regarded as one of the best animated movies of all time.

It should also be noted that you do not need to watch the first movie or the Shrek movies to enjoy this film. Not only does this sequel surpass its predecessor, it stands alone as a great movie.   

The new 2D mixed with 3D animation style that Dreamworks introduced in “Bad Guys” (2022) is used again in this film. There is also some heavy influence from “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse” (2018). This film, however, has its own unique style that makes it stand out from the rest. This new animation style is at its best during action sequences and when the movie takes place in the magical forest. 

Out of the Shrek movies and the first Puss in Boots, Banderas delivers his best performance as the furry hero in this film. Salma Hayek, who returns as Puss’s partner and love interest, Kitty Softpaws, has more to do in this movie and executes her role as well.

The new cast of characters this movie introduces are all played excellently as well. Perrito, played by Harvey Guillén, could have easily been the new, annoying, comedic relief, but the character’s dark backstory, happy attitude and comedic timing from Guillén make Perrito a fun addition to the cast.

Goldilocks and the three bears as a crime family was also a creative and fun take on the characters. Florence Pugh as Goldilocks, Olivia Coleman as Mama Bear, Ray Winstone as Papa Bear and Samson Kayo as Baby Bear all have great chemistry with one another and capture that family togetherness. Their sidestory not only flows well with the main story, but it has its own lesson that is surprisingly emotional.

John Mulaney, who plays Jack Horner in the movie, made a relatively unknown nursery rhyme character into a hateable antagonist. Mulaney captures this bratty and evil attitude so well and somehow can play it for laughs. Horner easily has some of the darkest moments of the film and has some funny interactions with a well-known fairytale character. 

The Wolf, played perfectly by Wagner Moura, steals the scene every time he’s on screen. Moura’s voice acting is top notch. He made the Wolf dark, cool and dangerous all at the same time. That whistle is still chilling. Dreamworks and Moura really created one of the best antagonists in an animated film.

Although this movie sounds packed with characters, each one of their stories is not crammed or rushed in its runtime. Each side story comes together and adds to the theme of “being grateful for what you have.”

The film is also well-paced. The action scenes are fun and exhilarating but the film also takes its time when it needs to get serious. The comedy throughout the film is also nicely balanced.

For being a family movie, “The Last Wish” doesn’t shy away from being dark at times. The whole movie is based on Puss dealing with his own mortality and the movie takes it seriously. Topics of life and death, anxiety and greed are also in the film. As stated earlier, the actions done by Jack Horner are surprisingly dark for a family movie but nothing too extreme.

If you’re a supporter of Dreamworks or a fan of the Shrek franchise, you should definitely watch this film in theaters. It’s important for studios to know if a new creative direction works and the box office numbers are a reflection of that. Even if you stream it, you can still appreciate the story and animation.

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a great film to kick off Dreamworks’s resurgence. As a standalone movie, it’s a great story that also pushes the boundaries of animation. As a film that’s part of a franchise, it’s one of the best, if not the best. I give it a solid 10/10.