Fairy tales are coming to life all over the place these days, what with "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time" both kicking off on TV this month. On the big screen, classic kids' tales and nursery rhymes combine in "Puss in Boots," which spins off Antonio Banderas' suave feline from the "Shrek" movies into his own 3-D adventure.
"Puss in Boots" starts a little slow, but once it flashes back to the furry friend's childhood, things start to purr. Seems that Puss once lived in an orphanage filled with other favorites from the storybooks, including a bullyish Little Boy Blue and a dopey Humpty Dumpty, who becomes the cat's best pal. The cat and the egghead are unlikely buddies, but Zach Galifianakis adds a crafty charm to the bad egg, and it's easy to root for their up-and-down friendship.
Of course, a Latin lover like Puss needs a lady friend, and Salma Hayek makes for a slinky Kitty Soft Paws. If you can even consider declawing a cat after hearing her tell of her plight, you've truly got a hard heart.
The plot involves Puss, Kitty and Humpty chasing after some magic beans which are guarded by cranky old Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), who are nothing like the sweet little boy and girl of the nursery rhyme. But the bean plot is just Hitchcock's MacGuffin, driving the plot forward so the characters can pad and pounce their way around.
For once, the 3-D enhances a colorful and well-thought-out universe, rather than just jumping in for an occasional scare or leap into the seats.
And Puss in Boots is just a likable furry little hero. The film never forgets that he's a cat, leading to fun scenes where he's easily distracted by a laser pointer, laps milk delicately from a barroom shot glass, or turns on those giant melty cat eyes familiar to "Shrek" fans. We're already hearing that a litter of sequels could be on the way, and that's just purrfect.
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Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is TODAY.com's movies editor.