Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) becomes a popular folk hero in his country. After his latest conquest of a giant monster, he was killed by a freak accident with a church bell. When he woke up, Puss realized that he already spent eight of his nine lives, and that he only had one more life to live. At first he did not think it was a big deal, but a traumatic encounter with a sinister-looking Wolf (Wagner Moura) made Puss decide to retire from adventures.
While living the life of a spoiled lazy lap cat, Puss learned about a Wishing Star from the family of Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo) who were looking for it. Puss decided to search for the Star himself in order to wish for his nine lives back. Along with Puss on his quest were his old flame Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek) and a nameless little orphan therapy dog (Harvey Guillen).
This sequel to the first "Puss in Boots" solo spin-off movie came out 11 years after the original. There is a very evident difference that can be noted in the style of its animation. On top of the 3D computer-generated images of the characters, there is now an additional 2D artistic style as if they were hand-painted (first seen in "The Bad Guys"), especially noted most prominently in the character of the Wolf, and even in Puss during their showdown fight scenes.
The voice work of the actors really captured the personalities of the characters. Antonio Banderas's voice had the bravado, arrogance and charisma of Puss, whom we've known and loved since he made his first appearance in "Shrek 2" (2004). Selma Hayek lends her sexy sassiness to the voice of the skillful thief Kitty Softpaws, who held a grudge against Puss. Florence Pugh's characteristic raspiness was easily recognizable in Goldilocks's voice.
Like before, the characters Puss encounters were all fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters. The choice for main antagonist was Jack Horner, the boy who sat in the corner eating his pies, but he was not little here anymore. He was not as famous as others, so some kids may need a review of his rhyme to refamiliarize. There were a trove of Disney character references you'll have fun identifying, from Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland and Jiminy Cricket.
Very notable in this latest Dreamworks release is the darkness of the plot, which was also reflected in the artwork styles and situations depicted. Only in trickles, but this must be the first time blood was seen in a Dreamworks animated film. The language and humor used was also more mature, even with some assumed expletives bleeped out. As the topic of death played a major part in the story, scenes with the Wolf can be very scary for little kids.
PS: The new DreamWorks Animation opening logo precedes this film. It was quite nostalgic to see the DreamWorks boy seeing famous DreamWorks characters old an new -- like Toothless, Po, Boss Baby, a Troll, the Bad Guys and of course, Shrek with Fiona and Donkey -- as his crescent moon flew him around in space before settling in its place.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."