Instead of pussyfooting around, let’s get right down to it: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a lot of fun, and you should go see it or rent it or buy it or whatever you do to watch movies—even if you don’t have children to go see it with.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is Forumlaic
But the thing that is interesting to me about The Last Wish isn’t how remarkable it is but how unremarkable other Hollywood movies are by comparison.
Whether you follow movies closely or are a casual fan, you’ve probably heard the term “formulaic” thrown around in discussions about how and why modern movies aren’t what they used to be. Maybe you’ve even used the term yourself. I’m sure I have.
The thing is, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is formulaic. And it’s not a good movie despite that fact—it’s a good movie because of it.
If you watch enough movies, you might start to feel like films you are seeing for the first time are familiar despite the fact that you’ve never seen them before. The truth is that most storytelling is formulaic. Not every movie can be experimental. Not every movie can throw plot out the window like Slacker or Lost in Translation. Not every movie can challenge its audience the way Mulholland Drive and Stalker do.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish isn’t doing anything that is that different from Rocky, Back to the Future, The Lord of the Rings, or It’s a Wonderful Life. Each of these movies tells a story of a character or characters who are on some kind of physical or psychological journey (or both). They experience trials and tribulations and typically find themselves on the verge of giving up at some point. But, either through support of other characters or some kind of internal strength previously untapped, they push through and come out on the other side having learned something about themselves and grown as a result. Along the way, our characters experience moments of humor and sadness, hope and doubt. And by the time the credits roll, we (hopefully) feel like the characters have earned their happy ending.
Back to Basics
The Last Wish has all of these elements. It’s buoyed by amazing visuals and great action set pieces, but the movie doesn’t rely on either of those elements to prop up poor character development, a lack of humor, or a boring story.
At the end of the day, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish isn’t doing anything new. It’s not out to revolutionize storytelling. It follows a simple, time-tested method of telling a straightforward story that is fun, exciting, funny, and uplifting. I’m not saying making great or even good movies is an easy task. If it were, more of us would be doing it. But it also shouldn’t be complicated for professionals with the kinds of budgets they are given to recognize what movies like Top Gun: Maverick and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish are doing and what audiences are responding to and then to replicate that.
Given Hollywood’s penchant for myopia with these sorts of things, though, it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a crop of movies about fighter jets and fairytale animals in the next few years. Hollywood never seems to learn the right lessons from its successes or its failures.