Monday, December 5, 2011

Reconstructed from Reviews: Puss In Boots

Another Reconstructed from Reviews, in which we try to reconstruct the plot of a movie based solely on information provided in its unflattering, negative reviews. Today's feature: Puss In Boots.

Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) is a swashbuckling lothario who, in the opening scene, bids farewell to his latest conquest, a furry white tabby who lounges, satisfied, in bed. "What can I say? I was a bad kitty," Puss slyly says.

After robbing her owner blind and evading capture for the theft, Puss runs out toward the countryside, the female cat he wooed the night before sighing at his daring-do despite the fact that he had forgotten her name.
Puss is a wanted cat for his robberies, though even the toughest of men are at first amused by his appearance when the cat walks into a local tavern. After some fancy swordplay, he convinces them, and even the way he delicately laps up his shot of milk (one of those genuinely funny images of the contrast in personality and behavior that endears us to him) cannot lessen their fear. He's on the hunt for magic beans—the same magic beans a boy named Jack once used to obtain passage to a castle in the clouds where a golden goose lays golden eggs.

Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), once a defender of justice, is branded an outlaw after he’s double-crossed by childhood friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis).

Smeared with the blame of a bank robbery engineered against Puss’ wishes by Humpty, there is now some bad blood between them, although Humpty tries to persuade Puss he can be trusted.

When he hears of a score involving magic beans, currently in the possession of murderous thugs Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), he sees a chance at redemption. He’s not the only one interested in the beans, though; the deft Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) botches Puss’ robbery attempt, and worse, she’s working for Humpty.
Salma Hayek (2010's "Grown Ups") fetchingly voices Kitty Softpaws—her greatest shame is that she's been declawed, hence the name

Puss' first encounter with Kitty, during a simultaneous attempt to swipe the magic beans, leads to a chase across the rooftops of a sleepy town, and the payoff is a head-to-head duel in a secret bar for cats that happens to be holding dance night. The camera swirls through the space as the two fleet-footed felines scale the walls and fall safely down to the floor by tapping their heels against each other's feet (The crowd kneads its paws in applause after accompanying on various, makeshift percussive instruments, such as a fish skeleton).

His tired quest entails a lot of backstory shoveled at us – a past with Humpty, a surrogate mother he’s trying to make proud
Particularly revealing is an early segment where Puss describes his parentless childhood and sad-sack back story in exacting detail (cue the extended flashback), only for the film to eventually return to the present and reveal that Kitty Softpaws has long since fallen asleep next to him.

It's a particularly long account (Kitty is asleep by the end—a throwaway gag but one that's unintentionally accurate) and one that hardly enlightens about Puss in any meaningful way aside from what conflicts arise later on in the story (i.e., what Humpty's ultimate goal is and how the townsfolk react when Puss returns).

Humpty, though, begs Puss for his forgiveness, and the three embark on a quest to retrieve the beans, plant them, and claim the fabled golden goose that will change their fortunes forever.

Both feel betrayed by the other, but the beans hold the key to repaying an old debt to the town that took him in as a kitten so many years ago and that now believes him to be a heartless outlaw.

Eventually, he is tricked into teaming up with the egg and his pals. Our hero is eager to make good on a failed promise from the past, though he still has issues with his ovum pal's intentions.

An attempted robbery the brutish Jack and Jill's (voices of Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) fortified carriage leads to a pursuit on perilous cliffs that is dizzying, and the trip up the thundering beanstalk to the castle in the clouds has the same quality.

If they can steal them and plant them then they can go up the beanstalk to a castle in the sky. In this castle there is a goose that lays golden eggs.

...the stale wisecracks are on the order of "First rule of Bean Club: You do not talk about Bean Club."
(Jack wants to start a family with the crime-loving Jill, and the giant of the castle has died, leaving behind another massive creature as the sole protector of the layer of the golden eggs) angry mama goose...

Climbing up the beanstalk high in the clouds, Puss, Kitty and Humpty find themselves a little portable pot of gold - a cute little yellow chick that lays golden eggs. Leaving the world of the beanstalk with the little chick involves multiple hazards and I like the scene when the protagonists cling desperately onto a champagne bottle cork, at the very moment it is popped – to be propelled over a giant chasm

Lacking vim as well as vigor, the film goes through the motions with promising baddies, Jack and Jill, who fade into the background by the second half and generally have nothing of interest to do.

Instead, the film commits the "Indiana Jones 4" blunder of staging frantic scenes of pursuit whenever the story sags, which is often.

The other villain, who will go nameless since it's meant to be a surprise, is a rip-off of Andy Dick's Boingo the Bunny from 2005's "Hoodwinked!," making one long for that much, much more clever fractured cinematic fairy tale.

Once the Big Reveal takes place, Puss has a come-to-Jesus moment, even though it’s everyone else in the movie that should be having it.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) announces towards the end of his self-titled adventure.

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