[EDITOR'S NOTE: Fearless Sarah D. Bunting of Tomatonation.com is making it her mission to watch every single film nominated for an Oscar before the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 26, 2012. She is calling this journey her Oscars Death Race. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here. And you can follow Sarah through this quixotic journey here.]
I bailed on the Shrek franchise after the first movie; I didn't really like it and I didn't need any more of it. So, either I forgot or never knew that the titular puss in Puss In Boots is a character from the second Shrek installment, which probably let me enjoy the story and the jokes without any expectations to live up (or down) to.
And for the first hour, I did enjoy said story. It's a similar fairytale/Zelig kind of a thing, with Puss (Antonio Banderas) teamed with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), his former bestie and current nemesis, for one-last-heist/clearing-of-good-name fun times. The animation has an uncanny-valley issue or two vis-à-vis the felines having human teeth etc., but for the first half-hour, things move too fast for that to register, and the humor is rimshotty (Puss's thunderous "the egg betrayed me!" punctuated by Kitty snoring; the talking-to-plants crack that sets off the giant beanstalk) but enjoyable. Humpty is very funny, not least in his heel turn towards the end, and that "I was always there" montage cracked me up (as did his outfits, and I would like to thank the animation team, or whomever, for understand that, if you anthromorphize an object, you must then put some pants on it/him).
But the clever asides about catnip (Puss is using it "for his glaucoma") and the exciting free fall with the leaf parachutes go off the boil about halfway through. It's like the writers -- and there are six credited, so go figure -- didn't know how to end it. The result feels like each of the six wrote a climactic scene; all of those scenes stayed in; and then, after the last one, the story just kind of bah-dum-bummed offstage all, "Okay, my ride's here, so…see you guys at the sequel, 'kay?" Well, you killed off the best character in it, so: pass.
I giggled several times. It's fine. It won't win its category.
Sarah D. Bunting co-founded Television Without Pity.com, and has written for Seventeen, New York Magazine, MSNBC.com, Salon, Yahoo!, and others. She's the chief cook and bottle-washer at TomatoNation.com. For more on how the Oscars Death Race began, click here.