Tag Archives: Tommy Swerdlow

Sexy Boots

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

by Hope Madden

Live like there’s no tomorrow. For some, that idea may be freeing. Not for Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas).

Down to the last of his nine lives thanks to his devil-may-care, adventuring lifestyle, the legendary tabby knows fear for the first time. Indeed, it seems to him that death itself stalks his every move.

But just as he’s resigned himself to the life of a housecat, he learns of a wishing star and decides that this one wish is his key to becoming his fearless, legendary self again. Too bad his ex, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), is also after it. So is narcissistic psychopath and piemaker Jack Horner (John Mulaney), as well as Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo).

That’s a killer cast right there. That’s five Academy Award nominations and one Oscar. Sure, most of that is Colman, but still, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is loaded with talent.

That’s no real surprise from the Shrek franchise or the gang at Dreamworks. What is a surprise is the material these pros have to tear into. Directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado capitalize on the talent with a heartfelt, surprisingly mature script from Tommy Swerdlow, Tom Wheeler and Paul Fisher as well as animation that looks better than anything the studio’s put out to date.

Banderas has a blast, as he has since his first appearance as the booted feline in 2004. Not every actor is cut out for voice work, but Banderas excels.

Pugh’s scrappy Goldilocks is a stitch, as is Winstone’s Papa Bear. Colman characteristically delivers a performance that’s equal parts tender, hilarious and heartbreaking. And with just her voice!

The entire cast, including Harvey Guillén as the most resilient chihuahua ever animated, populates this imaginary world with decidedly memorable characters – characters with dimension, 2D be damned.

Puss’s existential crisis drives this imaginative, often hilarious adventure, but it does more than that. It anchors all the derring-do with earnest emotion and recognizable struggle. The film never feels as if it’s winking at its adult audience while dishing out frivolity to youngsters. Instead, somehow the filmmakers bridge that, engaging all ages with an emotionally complex but digestible tale, gorgeously rendered, beautifully acted and shockingly fun.

Exile in Whyville

The Grinch

by George Wolf

Before we get to the Whos, let’s consider the Whys.

Is it too much of a GOML (Get Off My Lawn) moment to ask why, beyond the obvious cash grab, The Grinch has to be redone? The original, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is 25 minutes of perfection, an animated TV classic that was already the subject of a charmless live action update for the big screens of nearly 20 years ago.

Now we’re back to animation, and facing the same quandary.

How do you add an hour of narrative that is more than just filler, substantial enough to not dilute what made the original work so simply joyous, so universally touching?

In 2009, Spike Jonze showed it can be done, delivering a wondrous and emotional take on Where the Wild Things Are.

But in this latest re-imagining of The Grinch, what writer Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow giveth only ends up taking away.

We’re still told the heart of Mr. Grinch (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) is two sizes too small, yet we’re given a new backstory for additional explanation as to why he hates Christmas so much.

His heart is two sizes too small, didn’t you hear? That’s the reason! Well, it should be, but then we see the Grinch do little acts of kindness for his dog Max and some other creatures, meaning the whole idea of Mr. Grinch being such an unpleasant misanthrope (and thus the impact of the story’s entire resolution) is compromised early.

The narration (courtesy of Pharrell Williams) includes some of the delightful Dr. Suess wordplay from 1966, plus some fresh attempts to imitate it that, as you might guess, stand out like a ten dollar Rolex. Mr. Grinch’s ultimate change of holiday heart doesn’t fare much better, as he and Cindy Lou Who (The Greatest Showman‘s Cameron Seely) spend ample time hammering home a message that, while still welcome, shouldn’t require that much force.

Directors Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier craft a few giddy sequences set among the snowy terrain of Whoville, and SNL’s Kenan Thompson squeezes as much humor as he can from his role as the Mean One’s erstwhile “best friend,” but for anyone hoping to recapture the magic of a holiday standard, The Grinch is nearly as empty as Cindy Lou’s living room on Christmas morn.