Everyone in the house is sick AGAIN, which made this weekend the perfect time to curl up on the couch for family movie night. The movie of choice? The True Story of Puss ‘n Boots.
I wasn’t expecting much from this film. It seemed to me that the only reason it existed was to ride on the coat tails of a certain big Hollywood franchise about to produce their own Puss in Boots spin off movie. However, two words drew me in, and those two words were: William and Shatner. I am a big fan of William Shatner. I think the man is a hoot, and I’m proud to know he’s Canadian. So when I noticed that he was the voice actor for Puss, I had to give this movie a go.
The first thing I noticed was the animation. It’s really top notch. Some of the big wide angle shots where they show off the scenery, like for example when they first introduce the Ogre’s castle, are quite beautiful. My husband didn’t like the mix of super realistic computer animated faces with more cartoon-ish less textured clothes and backgrounds, but I actually found the style charming.
|The film is full of gorgeous shots like this one where they show the miller’s windmill home.|
The voice acting overall was top-notch. The music was good and the songs (because everyone seems to think cartoons need songs, sigh) were tolerable. William Shatner as Puss was amusing, but not quite what I had expected. He didn’t sound much like himself, but rather did a silly cat voice for the character.
Where the movie failed for me was in the story. It billed itself as a retelling of the classic Charles Perrault fairy tale. They even inserted Mr. Perrault as a character into the story, which I thought was cute. However, they took some really large liberties with the original fairy tale storyline.
|Where did the talking monkey come from? Why is there a monkey in this film?|
If you’re not familiar with it the original tale it goes something like this: A miller passes away and leaves his mill to his eldest son, his donkey to his middle child, and to his youngest son he leaves only the family cat. The boy is surprised to discover the cat can talk. The cat demands the boy make him a pair of boots. The boy fulfills his request and the trickster cat manages to convince the King that the poor boy is actually the Marquis of Carabas. First the cat brings the King game (a rabbit, some partridges, etc) as a gift from his master the Marquis of Carabas. After a few months of this, the cat arranges for the King to discover his master naked in the river, supposedly put there by bandits who had made off with his clothes and jewels. So the King clothes the miller Marquis in noble clothes and rides on through the country-side where various peasants that have been threatened or cajoled by the cat, assure the king that each field they pass belongs to the Marquis of Carabas. In truth the land there abouts belongs to an ogre who has the power to transform himself into any sort of creature. After gaining audience with the ogre, the cat tricks him into transforming himself into a mouse and eats him up. The ogre’s castle now being vacant, the cat presents it as belonging to his master the Marquis of Carabas. In the meantime the King’s daughter has become smitten with the miller Marquis. The King, duly impressed with the Marquis, gives him the hand of his daughter in marriage. The End.
|The evil chamberlain and his hunchbacked lackey.|
The True Story of Puss ‘n Boots version of the tale diverges from the original plot in that; 1)the princess, who loves to sing and dance (hence the many song and dance routines they manage to sneak into the film), will only marry someone who knows how to dance 2)there is a villainous chamberlain who is making evil candy that transforms people into animals, most notably toads 3)the princess, in a Zorro style mask, sneaks out to the nearby tavern to dance for the locals 4)the miller insists that his son make boots for the cat with special leather that he also bequeaths him 5)the cat’s boots are magical and let him zip around at a quick pace (sort of like the classic seven league boots from other fairy tales) 4)there is a monkey with a Jamaican accent living in the basement of the Ogre’s castle, who teams up with Puss and the miller’s son 5)the ogre starts to morph into a tentacled octopus like beasty whenever he loses his cool and can only be soothed by the sound of music 6)Puss steals one of the princesses dancing slippers and then “finds” it for her 7)the Princess urges the miller’s son to do the right thing, and tell her family the truth about his origins 8)the ogre secretly wants to be transformed into a swan, so via one of the chamberlain’s magic candies Puss turns him into a rather ugly duck.
|The princess meets the miller’s son when she sneaks out to perform in a tavern.|
Much of this left me shaking my head, particularly the princess masquerading as a tavern wench. But the part that had both my husband and I raising our eyebrows over the girls heads was the characterization of the princess’s parents. For 99% of the movie the King was unconscious, clutching a fly swatter, asleep on his throne or in his carriage. The Queen was the one in charge, but she was pretty belligerent, and also often seemed confused. She slurred her words, her eyes were at half mast, and she slouched down in her throne. At one point my husband looked over at me and asked: “Is the Queen supposed to be a drunk??” Pretty much any conversation that featured the Queen and King left me feeling bewildered as to what the heck the story writers were trying to convey.
The movie was filmed in France and was originally produced in French. My four year old is attending Junior Kindergarten at a French Immersion school, so I love that the option is there to play the movie in French. I played through part of the French version and the audio quality is great. I think they even used many of the same voice actors for both versions. For example the Princess and the Queen both sounded like they were being voiced by the same actors. However, I’m just going by what my ears told me, as I didn’t go back through to compare the credits.
|I couldn’t pass up a film where Shatner plays a cat.|
I love fairy tales. I love trickster tales. Puss in Boots is at heart a trickster tale. However, I understand why the film tacked on the “importance of telling the truth” moral. It’s a kid’s movie, and showing someone getting ahead through deceit wouldn’t be considered correct. I should probably also note that Rainbow thought that it was hilarious that the bad guys were transformed into ugly animals at the end.
Overall, I was expecting something closer to the original Perrault tale, and in that I was disappointed. On the other hand, my four year old loved it. I think the film is trying to be Disney, and it does a pretty good job at it. There is music, there is singing and dancing (Several of the songs are sung in french, and are quite pretty). There is magic, transformation and adventure aplenty, and the overall production quality is quite high. If you are looking for a Disney-like film for your kids to watch, this is a safe bet, just don’t expect it to have much in common with Perrault’s original tale.
If you’d like to read more about the film, or see more still images you can check out the Official Website for The True Story of Puss ‘n Boots. The DVD was released on October 4th and is being distributed by Phase 4 Films. You can order it online via Amazon, or you should be able to pick it up at whatever retailer you normally purchase movies from.
Disclosure – I received a preview copy of the DVD. As always, my opinions are my own and were not influenced by the company, or by the free product received.