While nobody was looking, how Puss In Boots: The Last Wish cleaned up

Puss In Boots - The Last Wish
Share this Article:

Outside of Avatar: The Way Of Water, arguably the hit of the winter season was Puss In Boots: The Last Wish – but it seemed not too many people noticed.

I’ve found myself over the last few days considering my guilt. That the cycle of entertainment – and particularly movie – news reporting tends to keep its eye on the top two or three stories, and not really focus too much on what’s bubbling a little way under the surface. As such, I wasn’t really looking in the direction of Puss In Boots: The Last Wish when it first of all made its debut in the US before Christmas, ahead of its UK bow earlier this year. Like many, I made an error there.


Try three issues of Film Stories magazine – for just £1: right here!

Film Stories monthly magazine subscription

Film Stories monthly magazine subscription

In my weak defence, there wasn’t – on paper – an enormous amount to get excited about. I found the first Puss In Boots film decent enough, a solid spin-off from a Shrek franchise that itself seemed to have been a golden goose significantly injured by Hollywood bean counters. Shrek sequels were coming regularly and started getting worse. Puss In Boots filled the gap, did decent money back in 2011 when it was released, and there was talk of a sequel fairly quickly thereafter.

Thing is, the sequel didn’t materialise – at least not for a full decade. In that time, parent studio DreamWorks Animation was snapped up to become part of the empire in which Universal Pictures sits, and Universal decided soon after that it wanted to reactive sequels to earlier DreamWorks hits. Thus, we’ve had new Spirit, Croods, Boss Baby and Trolls films under the Universal logo, with a third Trolls outing winging its way in our direction, replete with dodgy haircuts.

I wasn’t that fond of The Boss Baby 2, nor of the belated Spirit sequel, but it seemed fairly obvious on the surface what Universal was up to. Sweat the assets, as an accountancy chum of mine once put it, and try and double up on previous hits. As such, Puss In Boots was given a fresh lease of life, and a long talked about sequel finally got the green light.

Even the news of that barely caused an eyelid to flutter. A sequel to an animated hit? Lovely. That’ll keep the kids quiet for an hour and a half. Now when’s the new Marvel/DC/Nicolas Cage film out?

In the end, the film cost a relatively modest $100m for Universal to make, with Antonio Banderas lending his tones again to the title character. By way of contrast, Pixar’s animated adventure Lightyear reportedly cost $200m just for the negative last year. That’s not the last time Puss In Boots will be contrasted with Lightyear in this article.

Puss In Boots - The Last Wish

Expectations for what was now known as Puss In Boots: The Last Wish were then lowered a little more when the release date was announced. In the US, Universal was putting the movie out on December 21st 2022. This was, at heart, counter programming at work. By this stage, it was clear that interest in James Cameron’s new movie, Avatar: The Way Of Water, was sky high. By putting Puss In Boots: The Last Wish against it, it looked from the outside looking in that Universal was chasing the younger audience and taking what it could get. After all, the Avatar follow-up was and is presented as a family blockbuster, so there’s crossover in the demographic the two movies are aimed at. But still, Avatar 2 was expected to clean up Christmas. And new year, as it happened.

The first sign that director Joel Crawford and his team might have something a little more than people were expecting was when the first reviews came in. What’s this? Puss In Boots: The Last Wish isn’t just the rare sequel that offers a notable upgrade on its predecessor, but it’s also a very, very, very good family movie in its own right. Reviews were surprised, and positive. But still, in its opening weekend in the US – just dates before Christmas – the film could only muster $18.5m across over 4000 screens. The same weekend Avatar: The Way Of Water took $63m, and that was on its second week of release.

Fellow openers Babylon and Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody opened softly too, on the way to disappointing box office totals. As Avatar: The Way Of Water was making its way to over $2bn at the global box office, it was sweeping away films that were daring to open against it. A littering of box office disappointments was left behind.

On the surface, that’s what Puss In Boots: The Last Wish was looking like. But in part aided by the lack of any other notable high profile family animated film opening around it, and in further part by the fact that it’s actually terrific, word of mouth starting to pick up. And as other high profile films came and went from US cinemas in not much time at all, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish endured. To the point where, at the spot in time when this piece is being written, it’s been out for 17 weeks in America, and has grossed $185m in the States alone. It remains in the top 15 at the box office.

It’s done the thing that films aren’t supposed to be able to do in cinemas anymore: opened modestly, and actually grown and built an audience over a number of months.

This isn’t unique to the US either. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish has become a global hit, the one film that stood against Avatar and wasn’t dwarfed by it. It’s on the verge of crossing half a billion dollars at the global box office, and it’s taken more money than Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, for instance. Costing significantly less to make too. As others have pointed out as well, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish’s global gross is as much as Disney’s much-underrated Strange World and Pixar’s Lightyear (told you) put together.

I’m not one who believes that a movie falling at the box office makes it a bad film, mind. But I am one to take encouragement from the fact that there’s still space – amidst a confluence of circumstances – for a movie to pick up word of mouth and build an audience over a period of time on the big screen. Sure, studios seemed to have been neglecting family animated movies a little last autumn, and that was to Puss’ benefit. But still, the film itself is a gem, and was rightly rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.

It’s a lesson too for a news cycle that’s focused on the biggest, loudest, and the clickiest stories. A feature like this on a Puss In Boots sequel is going nowhere near the front page or Reddit after all, we won’t be taking the day off counting the ad revenue from any clicks on it. But there’s something more important here, that deserves to be acknowledged: a team, working on what could have been a churned out sequel, put in a real shift and did something that deserved to find an audience. And that at first, the audience didn’t get there. But, in a punching above his weight manner that the character would surely appreciate, Puss ultimately prevailed.

Just don’t let us down with the surely now inevitable Puss In Boots 3. And somewhat inevitably, Puss’s path now seems to be leading towards a reboot of the Shrek franchise….

Thank you for visiting! If you’d like to support our attempts to make a non-clickbaity movie website:

Follow Film Stories on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

Buy our Film Stories and Film Junior print magazines here.

Become a Patron here.

Share this Article:

Related Stories

More like this