Okay, going in it didn’t look good, smacking as it did of Hollywood creative desperation. I mean, really. A sequel to a spinoff of a sequel to a two-decade-old animation? Then again, the starting point was the most excellent Shrek, and the spinoff the entirely watchable Puss in Boots.
Plot: the title self-aggrandizing feline’s chosen daredevil lifestyle has left him with only one of his nine lives intact, and on top of that a bounty hunter known (of course) as the Big Bad Wolf is hot on his trail. So Puss must enter the Dark Forest in search of the legendary Wishing Star, which can restore his ennead invincibility. Or something.
At first, it seemed to be relying overmuch on kiddie-pleasing color, sound and motion, but it thankfully soon morphed into something more thoughtful, funny and even earnest. The Dark Forest, you see, is a place of nursery rhymes, and the hero must deal with some “reimagined” takes on such storied characters as Goldilocks (and her bears), the villainous Jack Horner, and Pinocchio.
The kitty creatures are smoothly voiced by Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, backed up by Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, John Mulaney and Ray Winstone, among others.
The movie doesn’t talk down to anyone, and the story is surprisingly mature, making it that rare find these days, a film for kids of all ages. No cash-grab, this. (102 min)