Nomination: Best Animated Feature Film - Chris Miller
I have never been much of a fan of the Shrek series of films. Though both of the first two films had their moments, I find the films to be one-dimensional and one-note, and lacking the timeless quality of the films of Dreamworks Animation's biggest rival, PIXAR. The one part of the films that I have loved since his arrival in Shrek 2 is the character of Puss in Boots, voiced in a bit of perfect casting by Antonio Banderas. The character's combination of dashing Don Juan and helpless house cat make for a perfect supporting character, and Puss breathes life into what I often find to be dull, hackneyed scenes.
I was both excited and concerned when I heard Dreamworks was making a feature length Puss in Boots film. Even the best characters often become annoying and nearly unwatchable when stretched out into a feature-length film (see: 75% of Saturday Night Live inspired films), as the jokes that sustain a character for a few scenes often wear thin when stretched out over an entire movie. After viewing Puss in Boots, nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Animated Film against the far superior Rango, I was sad to find that my concerns were well founded.
Puss in Boots briefly tells the story of Puss's childhood with best friend Humpty Dumpty, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, and how he brought shame to his home and became a cat permanently on the run. Puss meets up with Humpty and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), and is given a chance to redeem himself. The film follow's Puss's journey for redemption as he - in a play from the Shrek playbook - encounters other fairy-tale characters along the way.
The central problem with Puss in Boots is that the central character is just not very interesting. He's a parody of the "Latin lover" ideal, an idea that works well in small doses, but doesn't make for a well-rounded protagonist. His backstory is shallow, and because he shows so little interest in redeeming himself until the opportunity is given to him, his goal doesn't feel immediate or essential. The villains (voiced by Bill Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) are unthreatening and uninteresting, and the romantic subplot falls flat. Galifianakis is very good as the sidekick Humpty Dumpty, and I have a feeling that he'll be doing voice work in animated films for a long time.
Puss in Boots is a missed opportunity to take a wonderful character and build a film around him, but the result is a disappointing film that reminds me of much of the output of Dreamworks Animation.
Remaining: 3169 films, 868 Oscars, 5447 nominations