PUSS IN BOOTS (Rated PG for some suggestive humor, mild action violence): With a nice spin-off from his role in Shrek 2, the cavalier Lothario Puss in Boots exchanges donkeys & ogres for childhood nursery rhyme characters and in doing so proves himself a star character strong enough to stand up on his own in this Dreamworks production. He also exchanges castles & enchanted forests for the saloons & sere Mexican landscape with equally delightful sport.
We meet our hero just concluding a romantic night with a contented white bit of fluff; he dons his boots, rapier, & flaring hat and in an insouciant exit is off to a bar filled with menacing characters who are amused as he ups to the bar to ask for a "shot of leche." "Mmmmm," he purrs as he laps it from the shot glass, "good leche."
At the saloon he winds up sparring with a masked character who turns out to be Kitty Softpaws in Batman-like disguise. The sparring turns into a sprightly Mexican "Dance Fight." Out of this encounter a friendly banter develops between them for the rest of the film, even after Puss is reunited with an old friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianaskis from his orphanage days - now off & on brothers under the skin, depending on who befriends or betrays whom. The unlikely trio take off on their prime adventure, to find the goose who lays golden eggs. With magic beans that grow astoundingly into the sky, up to the land of a now gone giant, they find what they seek, return with it only to be chased by a ferocious Jack & Jill who originally owned the beans...
And so on, to a cleverly conceived musical conclusion that would put the finest Bollywood spectacular to shame.
It's great fun in the best of today's animation techniques, in which one must continually be reminded that these are not live characters, live settings, and live action, but beautifully originated computer generated creations - set in a picaresque tale that is about bonding, honesty, & good overcoming evil - all devilishly imagined, with clever cat allusions throughout (at the Glitter Box, for example, where wayward cats hang out). The pace is consistently at top speed, with a split screen used frequently when even the rapid pace isn't enough.
Chris Miller's direction is tops, and the characters are delightfully portrayed, especially Antonio Banderas as Puss & Salma Hayek as Kitty. Script by Tom Wheeler, Brian Lynch, & Will Davies, though it lags a bit in story telling behind the best of Pixar productions, is almost inspired in its attention to details - backed by the usually high standards from the Dreamworks tech teams. And holding it all together is Henry Jackman's clever Mexican-styled orchestrated background.
If I must carp just a bit: the film is 90-minutes long, and since it amounts to nothing more than one cliff hangar after another as it zips its way to its moral conclusion, it might've felt less repetitive by cutting perhaps 5-10 minutes along the way.