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Directed by Chris Miller. Featuring voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris. 90 mins ****

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Franchise is one of the ugliest words in the language and it really is shameful that we have allowed the concept to enter into the everyday language of film. Nowadays we all like to pretend we are soulless corporate bloodsuckers so in that spirit it should be noted that Puss In Boots proves to be a surprisingly effective scheme to breathe some new life into DreamWorks’ faltering Shrek franchise.

The supporting character (voiced again by Banderas) from Shrek 2 onwards proves to be strong enough to hold centre stage all on his own. The story is a strange mixture of Zorro, spaghetti western and Jack and the Beanstalk, with Humpty Dumpty and fearsome criminal duo Jack and Jill thrown in. (After Rango, this is the second big budget family animation film to draw inspiration from the bloody work of Sergio Leone.)

Knowing that the title character in itself isn’t an automatic box office draw seems to have motivated everybody to put in that bit extra effort. It’s a tight little ship; it whisks you through and makes sure there isn’t a moment when there isn’t something to enjoy. There’s lot of cute animals and action for the children and a few more cheeky jokes for the grown ups. Plus of course, plenty of moments of Puss in Boots making the big eyes, which works for everyone.

A few weeks back I was lamenting the decision to release Arthur Christmas days after Bonfire Night, but I can see why Sony backed away from trying to take this on, not to mention Happy Feet Two. It’s probably a safer bet for anyone planning a budget busting 3D family trip to the cinema.

This busy film keeps you thrilled while it is on though maybe it doesn’t leave you with much to take home. It was a great moment when my nephew woke up to proudly inform his parents that he’d had the noodle dream, the one Po failed to have in Kung Fu Panda. In general though the characters and worlds in DreamWorks’ animations entertain thoroughly without really engaging imaginations.

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