Ten years ago when "Shrek" was released, it marked the biggest hit for Dreamworks Animation after "The Prince of Egypt", "The Road to El Doraado" and "Antz". It earned $484 million and a Best Animated Feature Oscar. It also earned director Andrew Adamson continued employment and the opportunity to pretty much write his own ticket.


You see "Shrek" led to "Shrek 2" which made $919 million worldwide. After that Adamson bailed as director to work on the "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (which made over $700 million) and "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (grossed over $400 million). He didn't abandon the Shrek franchise, he did produce the last two, but he didn't direct them.


I mention this because "Shrek The Third" and "Shrek Forever After" suffered hugely in quality. They missed the bite and wit of the first two. Especially "Shrek 2" when Adamson introduced the Puss in Boots character voiced by Antonio Banderas. Puss went on to be the favorite character and gave Shrek an even more international flair. So much so that Dreamworks and Paramount decided to create a film around the cat! Why not? Why the hell not create another franchise based on the Shrek franchise?

Adamson was not available as he is currently working on a separate project, so they got Chris Miller who directed "Shrek the Third". They settled with Chris because "Shrek the Third" didn't suck as much as "Shrek Forever After", so there was some sort of quality connection. But let's not fool around, they have beaten the "Shrek" franchise to death and "Puss in Boots" is merely a continuation of the beating.


Antonio Banderas returns, mainly because he has nothing else to do. True, he is currently starring in the creepy "The Skin I Live In", but let's face it... he makes twenty times as much as the voice of Puss in Boots. He's no fool.


This time we learn all about how the title character came to be on the lam. STOP! That's not the story as I remember.


For you youngsters who never read the original fairy tale, Puss In Boots (aka Le Maitre Chat) was a French cat who tricks a princess into marrying his worthless owner. It was part of a series of stories written by Charles Perrault who pretty much invented the fairy tale and published them in a collection titled Histoires ou contes du temps passe (Stories or Fairy Tales from Bygone Eras). The book included his other works: Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss in Boots, Diamonds and Toads, Cinderella, Riquet with the Tuft, and Hop o' My Thumb. Yup, he wrote all those and he was French, not Spanish.

So now that I've cleared that up, according to Dreamworks, he is now an Spanish outlaw. The film opens with him having escaped a cage, apparently bedding a female feline, then continuing his quest.


His quest is for the infamous Magic Beans which will, according to legend, lead him to the goose and the golden eggs and ultimately back to clear his name.


We quickly find out that his name is tarnished because he gets involved with a bad egg. Namely Humpty-Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) who is a Goldfinger-like criminal mastermind also seeking the goose, though for more selfish reasons.


During the quest he runs across another cat also seeking the beans; her name Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). After a dancing battle, they decide to team up with her withholding one little piece of information. I'll skip that and end the synopsis there (except to say that the notorious Jack and Jill have the beans).


As with the Shrek series, there are adult over tones that kids will miss but adults will get. Yes there is violence, but it's the bloodless really clean type, just like "Shrek". Antonio and Salma, even in voice-over have outstanding screen presence and work very well.


The animation, needless to say was off the hook. Very detailed. To the point where you could define the individual threads in the string of a ball of yarn. There is little reason for the 3-D except to earn a few extra dollars.


However, this is a case of taking the same horse and putting a different saddle on it; it's still the same aging horse. There is a serious 45-minute lull of dullness. That's a lot of lull for an animated feature directed at kids!


"Puss In Boots" is merely a continuation of a franchise that died four years ago. The cuteness wears off after the first fifteen minutes before you start looking at your watch. Here's an idea, read the original to your kids!   -- GEOFF BURTON