I have to hand it Dreamworks animation, they know how to make a solid children’s movie that adults can sit through comfortably. They’ve developed a formula that goes something like this: Likeable Characters + Outstanding Visuals + Recognizable Voice Talent + Borderline-Illicit Jokes That Kids Won’t Get - Any Semblance of Heart and Emotion = A 3-Star Film That Kids Will Flock To. Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and the rest all work within this equation and Puss in Boots is no exception.
Let’s work our way through that formula as it applies to this film. The characters at play within Puss in Boots are good-enough, though none of them quite measure up to the best of the Dreamworks universe. Puss is probably better served as an ancillary role but he is not overmatched with carrying his own film and his surrounding characters are all enjoyable if underwhelming. Puss looks predictably beautiful with rich scene structure and exquisite character details. The soul of Dreamworks animation is in their visuals and this film is nothing if not gorgeously animated. Another staple of the Dreamworks feature is the use of big name actors to voice the characters as opposed to the Pixar method which often employs lesser-known performers. The risk of using well-known voices is that it can cause the audience to see the characters not as themselves but as the actor providing the voice. Here, though, I think Banderas and especially Galifianakis do a good job of putting their respective characters above themselves, not always an easy task. The jokes, meanwhile, come early and often and fall right in line with the line of humor we were treated to in the Shrek films. Dreamworks has mastered the art of cramming adult-oriented jokes into their films without ever allowing young minds to become the wiser and that is, of course, a large part of their success. Puss manages to push the envelope in sly ways and that provides a handful of big laughs.