With the two most recent disappointing sequels, the "Shrek" ship appears to be floundering -- the leap to Puss In Boots' more easygoing, Leone-meets-Zorro universe is rather welcome. Unlike its parent series, "Puss" doesn't have a lot on its mind. But what it lacks in subversion or intelligence it makes up for in wit, charm and consistent, fun-loving breeziness.
The feline Don Juan -- voiced again with effortless Latin-lover exuberance by Antonio Banderas -- is a wanted bandit and spends his nights incognito, kitty bed-hopping. He runs across an old acquaintance, Humpty "Alexander" Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), and the two, along with the fetching cat burglar Kitty Soft-Paws (Salma Hayak), attempt to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill (as in "went up the hill") in order to summit the beanstalk and snatch the giant's golden goose.
In the tradition of "Shrek", the plot takes liberties with its characters, lifting them from the Grimm/Fairy/Folk tale stratosphere and transplanting them to 19th century Mexico. That Jack and Jill -- who I always assumed were siblings -- are a couple of married redneck outlaws is at least fitting with the Western theme; I have to say. And the film's swashbuckling spirit and tone of playful aplomb make those stretches in genealogy feel less strained.
"Puss In Boots" is mostly a series of perfectly delivered punch lines (Puss orders "leche" at a bar like it's whiskey then laps it up adorably with his tongue) supported by an adequate storyline. The cat puns and innocuous innuendos come thick and fast, as do the Western homages. Beautifully animated in sandy umbers and vistas of vibrant horizon oranges, it's a great looking cartoon that never reaches for Pixar's substantive artfulness, and consequently never comes close to achieving it. Yet, when Puss walked into a literal cathouse with a neon sign reading The Glitter Box, I knew I got my money's worth.