Puss in Boots: Rewriting a Hero

Puss in Boots: Rewriting a Hero

Liza Boguslavsky, Scoop Writer

Released in late December of 2022, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish brings back the arrogant but beloved and comedic character of Puss in Boots, along with cameos from other Dreamwork films such as the Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio. The thrilling adventure stars Puss in Boots and Kitty Softpaws, along with a dog without a name.

The movie starts out the way anyone would expect from a feature starring Puss in Boots; Puss singing valiantly about himself. The humorous entrance quickly devolves into an epic and fun-to-watch fight scene against the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar, who Puss easily defeats. 

Then, he dies.

Yes, Puss in Boots actually dies, within the first ten minutes of the movie! But not to worry, cats have nine lives after all. Except, Puss has never counted his deaths, and with the latest death, he just has one left. Advised by the town doctor to retire from his dangerous lifestyle, Puss is confronted with a crisis of self identity. Who is he if not a fearless hero? And how can he be fearless with only one life? 

Drinking away his sorrows with some strong milk, Puss encounters a strange bounty hunter who has set his sights on him. Confident at first, Puss launches himself headfirst into the fight, discovering a terrifying defeat in store for him instead of the victory he was expecting. For the first time in his life, Puss drops his sword and runs away.

After succumbing to his new and uneventful life in a cat sanctuary, Puss learns of a wishing star with the ability to grant the finder a single wish. Suddenly, he has a hope of getting his nine lives back, and becoming a fearless hero once again. Tormented by his past and his sudden mortality, Puss goes through a series of humorous, but at times rather dark battles.

With an incredible cast of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, John Mulaney, and more, bringing life and energy to every character. 

While seemingly aimed for kids, the film is truly captivating for audiences of all ages. At first, the movie seems like skin deep entertainment, a goofy watch for family night. However, as the film goes on, themes of loss, identity and courage become central to the story. 

Kitty Softpaws is shown struggling to trust anyone, including her old partner, Puss. Throughout the film they orbit each other, struggling with the choice to either trust or betray the other, held together only by Perrito and their determination to get the wish first. Real themes of betrayal and trust issues surface, as Kitty searches for anyone she can let her guard down with. 

Puss is shown struggling with loss of identity and courage, and what it means to rediscover his bravery. The film rewrites Puss’ identity as a hero, going from a fearless and arrogant protagonist to scared and helpless. For the first time, he’s shown struggling, even dealing with panic attacks. Fear and existentialism become crucial themes, even more potent in a character who’s always thought of himself as invincible.

Other characters such as Goldilocks also illustrate meaningful concepts, such as the heavy topic of adoption. Twisting the original fairy tale, the movie casts Goldilocks as the part of the bear family, but her one wish on her quest to find the wishing star is to get a “real” family. She depicts the heavy concepts of self identity and feeling othered, as well as definitions of family. However, the movie makes it clear in the end that adopted families are every bit as real and important as biological ones, and can be just as life saving and loving. 

Character development and lessons are even written in in characters as silly or seemingly stupid as Perrito. Throughout their journey to the wishing star, the contrasting characters introduce different perspectives into the story. Puss and Kitty are both distrustful and cynical, while Perrito is naive but hopeful. While played off as a joke, there are valuable lessons to be learned from the simplicity and beauty a dog can see, even throughout the traumatic things he has experienced. Perrito presents the ideas of hope and positivity in such a straightforward way, and highlights the importance of hope throughout darkness, as well as not letting your past affect your self worth. 

The overarching themes of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish are important for audiences both young and old. A seemingly goofy movie, the film has a surprisingly simple story with incredible emotional impact for viewers of all ages. 

As the movie progresses, the simple and childish facade drops away. The movie and characters remind audiences of the value life has when it is finite, and encourages them to embrace the inevitability of death with courage, and decide to face life with hope despite mortality. 

Unlike cats, most living things only have one life. What’s the worth of nine lives without friends or family, companionship or love? Isn’t one life spent happily better than however many spent miserable? The film focuses on embracing the inevitability of death, and the friendships that make life valuable. 

The movie is able to end on a positive note, with the defeat of evil and the rejection of his past identity. Stepping away from the invincible and arrogant hero archetype, Puss begins to fight for the life he has, and ends the arc on a journey to rebuild himself.