Dreamworks’ Puss in Boots: The Last Wish got its full wide release this week, and reviewers are nearly unanimous in their praise of the latest installment in the Shrek franchise.
Directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by Januel Mercado, the film currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%, putting it in elite company alongside other 2022 animated features such as Turning Red (95%), Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (97%) and Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (99%). It’s no wonder then that the film is already receiving loads of awards season attention and looks like one of the favorites to score an eventual Oscar nomination.
Among the film’s virtues that critics are most enthusiastic about, its stylistic animation and off-beat action sequences seem to be the most common. Although there has been plenty of praise to go around concerning the film’s all-ages humor, quickly moving narrative, and stellar voice acting performances. There is also an, as far as we could find, unanimous consensus that this film’s version of Death is one of the best to grace the big screen in a long time.
Here’s what the critics are saying about Puss in Boots: The Last Wish:
Leigh Monson at The A.V. Club was appreciative of the franchise’s latest aesthetic upgrades:
The most obvious upgrade from the previous film is in the animation, which takes inspiration from a number of sources but is most obviously reminiscent of the innovations pioneered in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. The combination of 2d and 3d animation meshes well with the painterly storybook aesthetic that The Last Wish is aiming for, allowing one to soak in beautiful vistas in the quiet moments and seamlessly ramping up into frenetic action that draws influence from shonen anime, of all places. Especially for being the product of a franchise known for its reflexive cynicism, The Last Wish is an especially vibrant and kinetic spectacle that’s having unironic fun with its grab bag of fairy tale pastiches, without limiting itself to a retread of familiar characters and themes.
In her Indiewire review, Emma Stefansky lauded Dreamworks’ regular willingness to play with aesthetics:
DreamWorks’ animation department (for which The Last Wish debuts a brand-new logo honoring the studio’s most popular characters) has long been one of the more underrated in terms of trying out new styles and aesthetics from film to film (the Boss Baby franchise notwithstanding), and The Last Wish has a particularly fun blend of standard computer imagery combined with the sketchy look of hand-drawn animation and the fast-paced flip-book style fight choreography popularized by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Variety’s Peter Debruge thinks The Last Wish sets Dreamworks up for future success when they go back to the Shrek well in the future:
It’s alarming how quickly computer-animated toons start to look dated. Most audiences won’t pick up on it, but the character rigs are vastly improved here. In the Shrek movies, the shoulders so often looked weird, whereas this time around, humans and animals alike have a much greater and more convincing range of postures. Add to that the painterly upgrade, and Puss will have paved the way for an all-new aesthetic when the studio decides to give Shrek a reboot.
Hoai-Tran Bui at Inverse was especially impressed by a few of the film’s hyper-stylized characters, although we’re not sure the only reason for the film’s stylized aesthetic is to look cool:
But the better-than-expected vocal performances of the celebrity voice cast wouldn’t work quite as well if The Last Wish weren’t so stunningly animated. Borrowing from Into the Spider-Verse’s comics-inspired CG animation, The Last Wish takes on a painterly look unlike any Shrek movie before it. For what reason? None, other than it looks cool, but it’s the kind of dynamic, visually exciting stylistic choice that is of a piece with Puss in Boots’ bombastic personality. Little stylistic flairs — lines that appear in the air when a person claps, action that moves faster than you can blink, lush greens transforming into bright pinks in a split second, the threat of death casting the world into deep shadows and flaming reds — make The Last Wish feel all the more fantastical. Special care has been given to the character designs too; the bounty-hunting Wolf, wielding scythes and appearing like a vision of Death each time, is especially striking.
Keith Watson at Slant was equally enthused by the film’s aesthetic, reserving extra praise for the character designs:
Largely eschewing the more realistic 3D animation style of the Shrek films, The Last Wish opts for a painterly, storybook look that suits its mock-fairytale narrative. Crawford’s film bears the traces of its lengthy production history, during which Guillermo del Toro and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse co-director Bob Persichetti were both attached to direct. The Last Wish’s action sequences employ the herky-jerky wham-bam-pow comic-book style of Spider-Verse, while some of its character designs, such as the grotesquely ill-proportioned villain “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney) and a crimson-eyed lupine bounty hunter who looks like a cross between The Seventh Seal’s Death and the Space Coyote from Homer Simpson’s chili-induced hallucination, bear the apparent influence of del Toro’s imagination.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is directed by Joel Crawford and co-directed by Januel Mercado, written by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow. It’s a Universal Pictures release of a Dreamworks Animation production, produced by Mark Swift and executive producerd by Andrew Adamson and Chris Meledandri.