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Puss In Boots
(1988)

Director: Eugene Marner
Cast:
Christopher Walken, Jason Connery, Carmela Marner


I think it goes without saying that all of us have dreams. And I think it also goes without saying that for almost all of us, our dreams are to be given in one way or another more power than what we have right now. For some of us, the power would come with having great riches and wealth. But I think for a lot of us, the power that we dream we want comes with having some sort of superior position in this society of ours. And for these people, there is one specific type of position that they have dreamed about at least once during their lives, and that is to have a position in Hollywood. It could range from being a hot-shot producer to being a hot-shot actor. Certainly, in the past I personally have had such dreams. But now that I am older and wiser, being a producer or an actor seem to be dreams that would bring plenty of pressure and hardship with any fringe benefits. And I don't have the business savvy to be a producer, nor do I have the street smarts to be an A list actor. My Hollywood dreams of recent years have been to have a position with something I think I am good at - writing. I have had dreams of being a screenwriter for some time now. But as I have learned more about being a screenwriter, the dream has started to look more like a nightmare. For example, I would have to move to Los Angeles. That would be bad because not only am I very comfortable in my present location, I would have to learn how to drive all over again, because some wise woman once said in the 1980s, "Walking in L.A.? Walking in L.A.? Nobody walks in L.A."

Seriously, though, there would definitely be some strenuous challenges that I would have to face if I were to become a Hollywood screenwriter. One challenge would come from the fact that while I would much prefer to write my own original stories while crafting screenplays, the sad truth is that there is not that much demand for spec scripts in Hollywood. What happens more often than not is that a producer gets an idea for a movie, and he or she recruits a screenwriter to write a screenplay based on the producer's ideas and requirements. I suppose even under those circumstances I could put my own spin on a screenplay that I would write, but there are further potential problems that could come up. One potential problem that I would like to talk about in depth is the challenge of writing a screenplay based on a short story of some type. You have to considerably pad things out with things ranging from characters to plot, and do it in a way that won't make the audience fall asleep. It is especially challenging if the short story is one that is very familiar to its audience. Take, for example, the Russell Crowe-starring movie Noah, which was of course based on the well known Bible story. I have seen the movie, and I thought it was quite an ordeal. The movie was extremely slow-moving, for one thing; there were long periods when nothing of significance or consequence was happening. And what material that was added for the story seemed ludicrous. Whenever one of those rock creatures appeared in the movie, I felt like I was more seeing a Transformers movie than something Biblical in nature.

Still, taking a short story and writing a successful full-length screenplay based on that short story can be done. For example, take a look at the Walt Disney organization. They have taken short and simple fairy tales such as Snow White And The Seven Dwarves and Sleeping Beauty, and Puss In Bootsthey have made full-length movies that have managed to win the approval of both critics and audiences. That's not to say that it isn't a challenge - it often is - but it can be done. Anyway, as you have probably guessed by the title of the movie being reviewed here that was at the top of this page, the movie I am reviewing here - Puss In Boots - is not only based on a short story, but one that was a fairy tale. Though this movie was not made by Disney - the movie was made by schlockmeisters Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus for their film company Cannon. Long time readers of The Unknown Movies may be a little confused by why I am reviewing this movie - didn't I already review a Cannon fairy tale movie? Yes, I did - Red Riding Hood. But I couldn't resist reviewing another one, because this particular one sported the eccentric actor Christopher Walken (The Maiden Heist). Not only that, the movie promised to not only show Walken dancing (which is always fun to see), but also singing - something that Walken hasn't done much of in front of the camera. In this movie, Walken plays the "Puss" of the classic fairy tale. More exactly, he plays Puss whenever the character decides to morph from an ordinary-looking house cat into human form. Apart from that radical change to the title character, the core story is more or less the same as what you remember as a child: A poor young man named Corin (Connery, Bullet To Beijing) inherits his father's cat after his father passes away. Shortly afterwards, Puss asks Corin for a pair of boots, saying that if Corin gives him some boots, Corin will soon need for nothing. Corin eventually gets Puss a pair of boots, and shortly afterwards the cat starts executing various schemes to get his master riches and respectability.

If you have been reading my movie reviews at this web site for some time now, you have probably started seeing a pattern with many of the reviews. Specifically, when I review a movie that has a particularly juicy element - like a big star - I start off my analysis of the movie by first discussing that juicy element. I know that many people reading this review are most curious about how Christopher Walken comes across in this movie. But you know what? I don't feel like talking about him right now. Instead, I'll first talk about how the movie looks. Like the other fairy tale movies Cannon Films made, Puss In Boots was filmed in Israel with a pretty limited budget. And it shows. To be fair to director Eugene Marner (who also directed the Cannon fairy tale movie Beauty And The Beast), he obviously put in some work so that the end results look somewhat better than other Cannon fairy tale movies. The chosen outdoor locations look greener and lusher, for one thing. And while all of the sets are recycled from other movies of this series, Marner for the most part does film them in various ways that don't make them come across as especially cheap looking, like crowding dozens of extras around the vicinity. There is one thing about the look of the movie that is pretty bad, though it wasn't Marner's fault. And that happens to be the movie's special effects. For example, when Puss morphs into human form (or vice versa), almost all of these transformations happen out of camera range. While the parts of the story concerning the shape-shifting ogre (played by Amnon Meskin of Red Riding Hood) do improve on this, it's not by a large margin - these particular transformations are more or less just a flash of light masking the human actor playing the ogre, followed immediately by a display of some wild animal that is especially badly superimposed over the same backdrop that a second before hosted Meskin.

But enough talk about the look of the movie - it's now time to get on to bigger things about Puss In Boots. You are probably thinking that after teasing you in the previous paragraph, I will now get down to business and talk about Christopher Walken. But guess what? I still don't feel like talking about him. Instead, I'll next get into the movie's writing and how it's handled. Unlike some other Cannon fairy tale movies (such as Red Riding Hood), the screenplay does stick closely to the source story. While part of me was glad there wasn't any contrived additions to the story (like with Red Riding Hood), at the same time I had to admit that the movie was kind of slow. Every scene does seem to serve some kind of purpose, I admit, but scene after scene passed when I desired the movie to pick up the pace quite a bit. The movie runs 96 minutes, and could have been shortened by about twenty percent. An easy way to have done this would have been to eliminate the musical numbers. Actually, the musical numbers, despite being the padding that they are, might have been welcomed had they been good songs, but they simply aren't. At their best, they are completely forgettable. At their worst, they sound so forced that there they come across as very desperate. When Puss first gets his boots, for example, it feels like he is cramming in as many words in every line as he possibly can: "Now I'm walking like I'm ten feet tall / Just reach out a paw and catch some birds / And I'll never have to creep or crawl / Be kicked or stepped on just because I'm small / I've got my boots and I've got it all!" This and other examples may not read so badly, but with the low key music attached to these lyrics, the actual execution quickly has the audience feeling exhausted.

Since I have just spoken about the musical numbers in Puss In Boots, you are probably thinking I will now talk about Christopher Walken. Actually, I want to next talk about the movie's other lead, played by Jason Connery (who is indeed the son of Sean). It doesn't take very long to determine why he never became a big star like his father. In fairness to Connery, he was burdened by his role being written to be quite thin; his character is more manipulated by fate and outside forces rather than making his own decisions. This might explain why his performance is so passionless and bland for the most part. He does show a spark of life when his character is directly interacting with Puss while in human form. Okay, okay - now I will talk about Christopher Walken in this movie. Walken is the best thing to be found in Puss In Boots. While the rest of the production may not be up to snuff, Walken all the same gives it his all. He makes Puss a very playful character, always putting in a little mischief into his words and actions. His actions also include dancing, and his dance sequences, while mostly a low key form of the art (though he has a stand out vigorous dance number in the scene taking place in the king's kitchen), are all the same a lot of fun to watch. As for his singing, well, his pipes show that he does not have a terrible amount of vocal range. So wisely, Walken doesn't belt out his numbers, instead making his singing almost come across as a form of talking, sort of what Rex Harrison did in the musical Dr. Dolittle. Though Walken may not be a great singer, the movie is a rare chance to see him tackle that, and the sight is kind of fun. Indeed, Walken is so fun in his scenes that it makes the movie a must see... until you weigh in the movie's big shortcomings. Still, I will say this: If you must see one of Cannon Films' fairy tale movies, watch Puss In Boots. And make sure your remote for your DVD player has fresh batteries so you can swiftly fast-forward throught the scenes where Walken is not around.

(Posted January 30, 2019)

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See also: Cinderella, Once Upon A Girl, Red Riding Hood

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