Even animated cats have nine lives. Unfortunately for Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), he’s already blown through eight of his. The narcissistic furball outlaw from the “Shrek” series is back, and his fame has only grown since we last saw him in 2011′s “Puss in Boots.”
As “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” opens, Puss is making a celebrity appearance in Del Mar at the home of the rich governor he’s just robbed. After dumping stolen gold coins on the ecstatic villagers, he launches into one of several catchy ditties by composer Heitor Pereira.
“Who is your favorite fearless hero?” sings Puss about himself while fending off the governor’s henchmen and the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar, an enormous treelike creature awakened by all that noise. “Puss in Boots has never been touched by a blade!” he brags mid-battle.
But Puss has been touched by the Grim Reaper seven times. A hilarious montage shows his demises, which include getting hit by a bull in Pamplona, cheating at poker with dogs, succumbing to a shellfish allergy, and drunkenly proving that cats do not always land on their feet. His eighth death, as the village doctor (Anthony Mendez) informs him, occurred when a large bell crushed him after he defeated the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar.
“You need to retire,” the doctor says, offering him a card for Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), a crazy cat lady who runs a “retirement home” for cats. “I’m nobody’s lap cat,” Puss protests. “Remember,” the doctor warns, “Death comes for us all.”
And boy, does Death come to slay! The animators have designed the coolest-looking reaper since “The Seventh Seal.” Appropriate for this fairy tale world, Death is an enormous, hooded, and red-eyed version of the Big Bad Wolf. Not only is he big and bad, he carries two gigantic sickles and speaks in the ominous voice of Wagner Moura.
When one of those sickles touches our feline hero and draws blood, he runs into the waiting arms of Mama Luna. She names him Pickles and forces him to regress to full catlike behavior — using the litter box instead of the toilet, for instance, and eating a cartoon version of kitty kibble. Oh, the humiliation!
Before Puss settles into his new lifestyle, he’s accosted by fellow outlaws Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Their vocal talent is just right: Goldie (Florence Pugh), Baby Bear (Samson Kayo), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman), and Papa Bear (Ray Winstone) make up a Cockney criminal crew.
They’re looking for a map that will lead them to a wishing star, a map currently owned by Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney). Anyone who finds the fallen star can make one wish. Puss sees his chance to earn nine more lives, so he sets off to find it. The game is aboot — I mean, afoot!
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” also features minor characters from earlier films, including my favorite cameo: the cat who covers his mouth and goes “OOOOOOH!!” Salma Hayek is back as love interest/better thieving half Kitty Softpaws. And as the newest toy your toddlers will want, Harvey Guillén plays Perro, an optimistic, foul-mouthed Chihuahua who dresses like a cat and wants to be a therapy dog.
The script by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow is very silly, to be sure, but everything works. The animation is well done, the music has a lovely Spanish flair, and the cast does an excellent job bringing the characters to life. Directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado adopt a fun, Looney Tunes-style vibe, which I enjoyed so much that, when threatened with yet another sequel at the end, I was too entertained to protest.
PUSS IN BOOTS: THE LAST WISH
Directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado. Written by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Harvey Guillén, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Samson Kayo, and John Mulaney. At AMC Boston Common, Regal Fenway & RPX, and suburbs. 100 minutes. PG (cartoon carnage, censored Chihuahua)
Odie Henderson is the Boston Globe's film critic.