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Puss in Boots: The Last Wish review – a belated but triumphant return to the Shrek-verse

With gorgeous animation and a cracking ensemble cast, this sweet, funny follow-up is one of the year's most pleasant surprises

For a franchise that has retained so much cultural cachet into the 2020s, it’s odd to think that there hasn’t actually been a new movie within the Shrek-verse since 2011’s spin-off Puss in Boots, a drought ended by that film’s new sequel The Last Wish. It’s a triumphant return, with a hyper-energetic story and gorgeous new animation style making this the most vibrant and entertaining trip to the lands of Far Far Away since 2004’s Shrek 2.

When we catch up with the titular cat, still voiced with the silky tones of Antonio Banderas, he’s enjoying life as a famous hero, celebrated by the common people and throwing illicit parties in the mansions of absent governors. After a wonderfully fun opening set-piece involving a fight with a giant, though, Puss finds himself down to the last of his nine lives with a Grim Reaper-esque wolf (voiced by Narcos’s Wagner Moura) on his tail, forcing him into humiliating hiding in the home of a mad cat lady.

You can’t keep a good cat down for long though and soon Puss is back on the adventure trail, seeking the fallen Wishing Star that will allow him to get his lives back and return to his status as a feted legend of the land. The Last Wish is packed with supporting characters, all also seeking the Star and harbouring various levels of hostility to Puss, and the script from Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow does a great job of keeping them all fun and distinctive.

Though it’s not as joke-heavy as the mainline Shrek films, The Last Wish is still decently funny, while its extra earnestness allows for some very sweet moments, whether that’s between Puss and his companions or Goldilocks and the Three Bears, who make for some lovable antagonists. It really helps that the voice acting is stellar across the board. Banderas slips effortlessly back into the boots, whilst Salma Hayek is gently compelling as fellow cat thief and love interest Kitty Softpaws, with Harvey Guillen providing a lot of laughs and heart as the scabby but irrepressible little dog that follows the cat duo on their adventures.

Meanwhile, Florence Pugh does solid work as Goldilocks, whilst Ray Winstone and Olivia Colman are a lot of fun as Papa and Mama Bear. As irredeemable baddie Big Jack Horner, John Mulaney has a little less depth to work with than a lot of castmates, but he’s still a joy to listen to.

As good as all of this is though, The Last Wish truly comes to life in its set-pieces, packed with superb action sequences that make the most of the new, Spider-Verse-inspired animation style. Fights are crisp and clear whilst the environments around them are very pretty, and the extended excursion into a magical forest that can switch between biomes on a dime allows for plenty of colourful and imaginative design work. As fun as the movies can be, the Shrek films never really looked as nice as, say, a Pixar film or pretty much anything more hand-drawn, but The Last Wish redresses this balance.

Some of the storytelling here – especially in the messages about the importance of family – can be dully familiar at points, but these are small blips in an otherwise highly entertaining adventure. With beautiful visuals, a cracking ensemble, and some villains that might give younger audiences a bit of a genuine fright in the way that the best kids’ films should, The Last Wish has an all-ages appeal that should make it a consistent favourite for family movie night.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is released in UK cinemas on 3 February.

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