Jolly green ogre Shrek and his sweetheart Princess Fiona amassed nearly three billion dollars at the global box office before heading into the fairytale sunset at the conclusion of yesteryear’s Shrek Ever After.
All good things must come to an end, except in Hollywood, where a single original idea deserves at least one sequel and a spin-off film franchise or television series.
So it comes to pass with Puss In Boots, a computer-animated prequel to the Shrek films that traces the formative years of the sword-fighting feline before he crossed paths with the pungent ogre and wise-cracking Donkey.
Director Chris Miller, who helmed the third chapter in the Shrek saga, maintains a brisk pace, exploiting the 3D format in a rooftop chase sequence and a flamenco-style dance battle between the Casanova cat and his rival, replete with slow-motion acrobatics.
The script plunders familiar characters from nursery rhymes and fairytales, putting a fresh spin on Jack & The Beanstalk.
“Is it true a cat always lands on its feet?” one outlaw asks Puss during his escapades.
“No, that is just a rumour spread by dogs!” retorts the swordskitty, who has been known affectionately as Frisky Two Times, The Furry Lover and The Ginger Hit Man.
“What can I say? I was a bad kitty,” he offers by way of meagre apology in voiceover.
The story begins with the young Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) being abandoned at an orphanage where kind Imelda (Constance Marie) raises the kitten as her own.
Initially picked on by the boys, Puss learns to fight to survive and he helps protect fellow outcast Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis).
Many years later, the surrogate brothers join forces with sexy pickpocket Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to steal magic beans currently in the possession of murderous outlaws Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris).
These beans are rumoured to grow a beanstalk that leads to the giant’s castle and the greatest treasure of all: the Golden Goose.
However, old rivalries between Puss and Humpty jeopardise the daring enterprise.
Puss In Boots is the cat’s meow.
Miller’s colourful film is littered with neat flourishes, such as a saloon customer who avoids expository dialogue with the aid of tattoos on various parts of his body, or the strays in the Cat Cantina who form a makeshift orchestra for the dance showdown.
Banderas purrs every line with unconcealed delight and he sparks fiery on-screen chemistry with Hayek’s feline fatale.
Galifianakis milks laughs and sympathy for his ovoid oddball, who laments at one point, “I’ve made a mess out of everything. I’m a rotten egg!”
The climactic ascent of the beanstalk ensures a slam-bang finale, suggesting there is plenty of life in the swashbuckling furball if DreamWorks Animation laps up a potential sequel.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 7.5/10
Released: December 9 (UK & Ireland), 90 mins