This article contains spoilers for DreamWorks Animation’s 2022 film, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and Warner Bros. Animation’s 1999 film, Wakko’s Wish. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen or are planning on seeing these films!
I was assigned to watch Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022) as a weekly screening assignment for one of my film classes last week. Don’t ask me why I’d put off seeing it in theaters; all I knew going in was that it had been, and still is, garnering a lot of hype and rave reviews on social media. This surprised me as its predecessor, Puss in Boots (2011) was a notorious flop over a decade ago.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, the sequel to the Shrek (2001) spin-off film, follows the titular character, Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) as he travels with Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Selma Hayek-Pinault) and Perrito (voiced by Harvey Guillén) to reach a magical wishing star and restore the first eight of his nine lives. Also en route to the wishing star in hopes of redeeming wishes of their own are Goldilocks and the Three Bears (the former voiced by Florence Pugh) and “Big” Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney). Along the way, Puss encounters physical and mental obstacles, including his own arrogance, flashes of his past lives, panic attacks, and even a physical manifestation of “Death” himself in the form of a wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura).
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is definitely worth all the hype: high praise considering it’s a sequel to a spin-off about a side character from Shrek. The subject matter is really heavy for your average “kids” movie and it was better than the first Puss in Boots, which is honestly all I was hoping for out of it.
My only real gripe with it was the part where I was less than ten minutes into the film — we’re getting into the nitty gritty, they’re explaining the map and the wishing star thing — and I thought: “Huh. This is extremely familiar.” And I kept waiting and waiting for it to stop being familiar, but I realized… this film has almost the exact same plot as another movie I absolutely loved growing up: the Animaniacs movie, Wakko’s Wish from 1999.
Granted, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish takes a way more serious angle with the plot, but the whole race against death to beat the bad guys before they reach a wishing star fairytale has unfortunately been done before. The similarities are just too similar to ignore and the movie definitely docked some points for me because the story wasn’t as original as I was hoping. Though, I can see how if you haven’t seen Animaniacs that it wouldn’t matter so much.
If you haven’t seen Wakko’s Wish before, I also wouldn’t be surprised. It was released direct-to-video and serves as the original series finale (I’m purposely ignoring the 2020 Hulu revival). The film places the series’ ensemble of characters in a 19th century-esque fairy tale and, like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, they all race to be the first to reach a magical wishing star to grant their wishes.
Contrary to Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Wakko’s Wish gives a way less serious and spooky, more vintage cartoony and comedic tone to the story, an example being the Warner Brother’s main storyline. We follow the main characters, Yakko and Wakko Warner on their journey to the wishing star to wish for a serious operation for their terminally ill sister, Dot Warner. But, they find out at the end that the “surgery” she needs is actually plastic surgery and she was never sick at all.
Both films have a happy ending as all of the characters get what they wished for, albeit in ways they may not have expected. Two thumbs up each from this viewer!
All of this is to say, not only did Wakko’s Wish walk so that Puss in Boots: The Last Wish could run and deserves just as much love and praise as its newer counterpart but animated films in general deserve more accolades than they generally receive. I think, especially amongst award shows, people put animated films in a box — it’s always “animated films” and “regular films” — because we associate animated films as being juvenile and designed for kids. But if you strip any film down to its bare bones, they all start out the same: an idea, a pitch, a rough draft.
There is no such thing as a regular film. And more upcoming films should learn a thing or two from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and include aspects that appeal to all ages, be it humor, writing, plot, etc. Like Wakko’s Wish, they just might become someone’s beloved classic films.