I told myself I wouldn’t. I promised that I would rise above the hype and not pay attention to those shiny saucer eyes or the hilarious paw-over-mouth surprise as a kitten says, “Ohhhh…” But it was number one in the box office for two weekends in a row, and I love cats and kiddie movies. So I caved anyway and saw Puss in Boots, the latest animated “kids” movie from DreamWorks Animation (DWA). Now not only do I think I’m a liar, but I’m convinced that I should never get a cat or see any other animated films in 2011.
Why did I make a promise I couldn’t keep? It all started with Shrek the Third, a movie that my little brother calls “The Best Shrek Yet” only because that is what is written on the DVD box. It was not the best. In fact, it was proof that the franchise should have stopped with Shrek 2. Overexposure seems to be the way when marketing to children, and DWA really ran with it. Shrek was on billboards, in kids’ meals, on bags of potato chips, and even in holiday specials like Shrek the Halls and Scared Shrekless. So when they asserted that Shrek Forever After (another one that should’ve stayed in the swamp) was the last film and then started showing trailers for Puss in Boots less than one year later, all I could think was “What the Shrek?” I vowed then and there to make fools of them all by not letting my eyes catch the slightest glimpse of anything remotely related to the Shrek franchise.
Long story short, I fell for the expertly executed advertising campaign. They made me curious, and you know what they say about curiosity. I will give the Shrek machine that much credit, but the movie deserves nearly none.
Our little fencing feline (still charmingly voiced by Antonio Banderas) begins his tale by creeping away from his one night stand. Yes, you read that correctly. He tells the fluffy floozy that he will never forget her, and then proceeds to call her the wrong name. Twice. He moves on through an environment where no one seems to know about his adventures with the ogre or his best friend because no one mentions Shrek, Fiona, or Donkey at all. This may have been a clever attempt for DWA to say, “See? It’s not a Shrek movie!” but they can spin that yarn elsewhere. The glaring omissions just gave the film a weird balance. Anyway, in the anti-Shrek world, Puss is an outlaw with a debt to pay. He hears about an opportunity to steal the famous magic beans from the disturbingly gross and low-class Jack and Jill who are still worth their screen time due to the amazing voice over work from Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris. He is thwarted by the flirtatious Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and eventually teams up with her and his estranged foster brother, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis at his most annoying), in a scheme to steal eggs from the golden goose. So we have promiscuous cats, trailer trash nursery rhyme characters, and a greedy egg, all of which are violent thieves.
Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? Me neither.
While this movie has its funny moments (namely the dance fight scene), the writers obviously were victims of the idea that for something to be appealing to adults, it has to include vulgarity, which is not true. The jokes ranged from mildly inappropriate to downright upsetting, and did not really focus on any commendable values. Not every movie has to include blatant lessons and hokey morals to the story, but it would be nice for a movie focused on making children want to see it to take some responsibility for presenting a respectable, palatable message. The cast and crew of this movie are not the only ones that have me hissing – a couple trailers featured more animated crap that included such kid-friendly scenes as a child getting pistol-whipped and drunken reveling. Shame on Steven Spielberg and Paramount for producing Tintin, another film that should really not be marketed to children merely for the sake of making money off of that demographic. It is almost as if you can make a movie about anything and as long as it is animated, in 3D or includes talking animals, you can get the characters put on cereal boxes.
I implore all TRR readers with children to stop the madness. Imagine that these films feature flesh-and-blood human beings on a huge screen. Would you want your little ones watching a film about a young thief who constantly raves about his lovemaking and carries around substances that supposedly help with his glaucoma? No? Then don’t take them to see Puss in Boots. I cannot begin to express how uncomfortable I felt laughing at some of the jokes with grade-school kids sitting a few rows in front of me. ‘Tis the season to make you cough up your cash, but you do not have to spend a dime just because a commercial or a toddler tells you to do so. Learn from my mistake and save your money for films that meet your standards. Maybe then the studios will start releasing higher quality movies for children that feature more dancing and achievement and fewer things that make you go “Ohhhh.”
Final Grade: D+
TRR Movie Revue by Stephanie Taylor