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Puss in Boots

Cat scratch fever.

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Okay, let's get the most obvious cathouse/pussy/ovate jokes out of the way up front, before we say anything else about DreamWorks Animation's Puss in Boots. Kitty Softpaws (voice of Salma Hayek), the love interest and swashbuckling comrade-in-arms of the dashing title character (Antonio Banderas), is definitely not in heat, and even though she and Puss occasionally get a bit frisky it's not like they can't keep their paws off each other. That said, there's no indication that either of them has ever visited a spay/neuter clinic, either. And despite the presence of Puss' soft-boiled buddy Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) the story does not lay an egg, even though it's not all it's cracked up to be. Oof.

Writers Tom Wheeler, David Steinberg, and Jon Zack, riffing on characters created by Charles Perrault, are to be congratulated for soft-pedaling the bodily-function laff lines that dominated the Shrek series. Instead, director Chris Miller's spinoff takes what amounts to the high road in its relatively restrained tale of the two "rival" felines and their egg-shaped nursery rhyme pal battling a husband-wife team of rednecks (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris as swine-loving Jack and Jill) and an angry mama goose for possession of the original Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs.

Aside from the thrilling "growing beanstalk" sequence, the 3-D effect is negligible — that gimmick will soon be laid to rest. Humpty resembles actor Michael Sheen. Composer Henry Jackman's music score vamps heavily on Ennio Morricone. DreamWorks' art department deserves kudos for its lovingly rendered desert scenery and ornery "human" characters. But the final score is: Nothing new, nothing strange, absolutely nothing unexpected, even for a five-year-old.

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Puss in Boots

Official Site: www.pussinbootsthemovie.com

Director: Chris Miller

Producer: Joe Aguilar, Latifa Ouaou, Andrew Adamson, Guillermo del Toro and Michelle Kouyate

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Rich Dietl, Guillermo del Toro, Ryan Crego, Tom Wheeler, Conrad Vernon, Tom McGrath, Bob Joles, Latifa Ouaou and Bob Persichetti

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