Puss in Boots

DreamWorks Animation

Review in a Hurry: Good kitty! Puss rides again in this Zorro-esque Shrek spinoff, in which the titular gato searches for magic beans while running from the law. Packed with exciting action, funny cat gags and eye-stabbing 3-D, Puss should claw its way to the top of the box office.

The Bigger Picture: Though born of the Shrek franchise, this origin story of the notoriously furocious outlaw is—like Puss himself—its own animal. The filmmakers shrewdly don't include familiar Shrek characters and, more importantly, don't kitty-litter the witty script with countless pop-culture references (save a tired nod to Fight Club).

Antonio Banderas again lends his growly purr to Puss, who—we learn in flashback—befriended fellow outcast Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) at a local orphanage. But the two became estranged when Puss took the fall for Humpty's botched bank robbery. A feline fugitive since, Puss now seeks treasure and a way to clear his name.

Humpty's new plan to steal magic beans from evil spouses Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) proves irresistible to Puss. So he cautiously joins forces with his former friend and slinky, street-smart accomplice Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). The adventure takes the trio up a towering beanstalk to nab the legendary Golden Goose.

Meow, the caliente chemistry crackles between Banderas and Hayek—their "dance fight to the death" is especially a sexy hoot. And Galifianakis makes bad-egg Humpty a sympathetic, even tragic, oddity.

Visuals are top-notch, from micro details in fur and fabric to beautiful scenes with moonlight and shadow all the way to grandly choreographed action sequences across rooftops and into the heavens. Plus, if you're watching in 3-D, expect lots of sand and sword points in your face.

The story might not be the freshest, but Puss pays entertaining homage to the spaghetti-western genre with its flashbacks, themes of honor and betrayal and stylish use of split screen. Just don't think too hard about a plot twist, which doesn't make much sense given what's transpired before.

Still, this cool cat always lands on its feet.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The banter between two-tons-of-glum Jack and Jill, including their bickering about having a baby, sounds more improvised than scripted and should've been sharper.

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