Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, a Surprising Place to find TOB

When I sat down to watch Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, I was not expecting much. I was never particularly fond of the Shrek series and found the first Puss in Boots movie to be mediocre, at best. I would have completely overlooked this latest addition to the franchise had my husband not prodded me to watch it with him after watching a glowing YouTube review from a notoriously critical film connoisseur. Let’s just say, the glowing reviews were merited. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was a visually stunning, morally compelling, family-oriented film that tracked thematically with Theology of the Body!

As an aside, I would not recommend this movie for small children due to the level of violence and some adult humor (e.g., bleeped out language). In addition, it has some rather dark themes. Nonetheless, the film’s merits are many and make it worthy fair for older children and adults.  Warning: If you don’t want the plot spoiled, stop reading here.

While the stage is set with pretty colors and a charming, somewhat conceited, agile, swashbuckling cat, the movie deals with some heavy themes. The plot weaves in themes of abandonment and the desire for love as well as the importance of family, commitment, and sacrifice.  A central focus is how the fear of death can get in the way of our ability to love.

The main character has always been careless with his nine lives. He previously mistook his carelessness for fearlessness, touting himself as a legendary hero. When he comes down to his last life, he can no longer fight with the same reckless “bravery.”  In a duel with death, he is wounded and overcome with panic and fear. His mortality is made real and his existence fragile.

He becomes focused on escaping death and restoring his nine lives as the only way to ensure his future, reduce his fear, and restore him to his former glory. He embarks on a desperate quest to find the mythical Last Wish, to regain his lives before death finally comes for him.

While on his journey, he encounters his former feline love interest, whom we learn he previously abandoned at the altar. He admits that it was the worst decision he ever made and that it was made out of fear. When she sees his newfound vulnerability, her heart softens, and trust is rekindled. Nevertheless, his fear resurfaces and motivates him to abandon her again for the sake of false security. However, in the end, he is able to overcome his fear and choose love. In the process, he discovers himself and even becomes courageous, not reckless, in the face of death. He shows his love that he is willing to risk his very life and face death to fight for an opportunity to spend his last and most important life with her.

This is the very fight we are called to enter when following the life of Christ. He calls us to love fearlessly, to let ourselves be loved deeply, and to be willing to sacrifice our lives for the sake of that love. This struggle to overcome fear and selfishness so that we can love authentically is central to the Christian life. Theology of the Body teaches us that we are made for communion of persons, and this requires making a gift of self. Christ Himself showed us this by pouring out His life out of love for us on the Cross and calling us to follow His example. Indeed, it is only when the love of another becomes the central inspiration for our lives that we find the courage to live boldly, even in the face of death.

In case this wasn’t enough, there were a few other things I found refreshing about this movie. They included several nods to the importance of gratitude and being present to the blessings in life. One character coped with tremendous hardship by focusing on what he had instead of what he was missing. Another came to realize that she had her wish right in front of her all along. I also was pleased to see that the filmmakers allowed the bad guy to be a bad guy. While appealing to our natural desire to see good in all people and give the bad guy a chance to redeem himself, the movie made space for the harsh reality that some people have genuinely malicious motivations and no intention to change. One character even admirably attempts to stimulate the villain’s conscience, but in the end, it became clear that he lacks all sympathy and is solely focused on pursuing power and domination. The profound truth here is that while God extends us innumerable opportunities for redemption, He ultimately respects our gift of free will through which some may condemn themselves. Overall, it was an enjoyable adventure with a surprisingly deep message.