Puss in Boots cuts a dash in this standalone CG caper, having already stolen the show from Shrek. Again, Antonio Banderas is effortlessly funny in the role, giving a cool edge to the cute kitty with his soft Spanish growl.
The plot doesn't always run quite as smoothly, but DreamWorks helmer Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs) manages to cram in lots of action in a quest that Puss undertakes before crossing paths with the big green ogre. It's another fun-packed fairytale mash-up - cut through with the legend of Zorro - that will tickle kids and grown-ups alike.
Puss marks his territory from the outset, somewhere south of the border where his reputation for handy swordsmanship is put to the test by a sleek black cat who turns out be professional femme fatale Kitty Softpaws (a honey-toned Salma Hayek).
Their sizzling swordplay is a cheeky echo of Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones going at it in The Mask of Zorro (miaow!), but there's a smidgen of Sergio Leone too in the extreme close-ups and choreographed stalking, complete with an Ennio Morricone-inspired soundtrack. They're both on the trail of magic beans, said to be pocketed by bandits Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris adding a side of ham).
But that's only half the story in a fable of friendship between Puss and Humpty Dumpty (The Hangover's Zach Galifianakis). A flashback sees them forge a bond at a Mexican orphanage where Humpty eggs the kitten on to scrap and steal, until one fateful day a bank heist ends up with Humpty taking a nasty fall… For a while, we're on unsteady ground too as Miller puts the focus on Humpty's efforts to redeem himself, making Puss the supporting player in his own origin story.
Galifianakis is typically whiny and somehow even more off-putting in the guise of a grinning Weeble. As sidekicks go, he isn't too loveable, but his spinelessness is something for the kids to boo at.
Once up the beanstalk, the mission is to capture the goose that lays the golden eggs followed by a sharp turn into Jurassic Park as a giant mama goose gets on their tails. It's a bumpy, madcap ride, but the visuals are stunning at times and there's a pulsating use of 3D in key set-pieces, like the opening standoff between Puss and Kitty and, later, clinging to the beanstalk as it shoots up into the clouds.
The banter between Puss and Kitty will raise a few chuckles too - enough that you might wish Humpty would go take a flying leap off a wall. Towards the end, the stunts overtake the characters and fans might be left wanting more of the rapier wit. Like a ball of yarn in a kitten's paws, it could all unravel so easily, but darn it, that Puss is too cute not to love.