Despite hundreds of uncharged 3D glasses causing problems with the presentation, an extended scene from Dreamworks’ Puss in Boots played to a very excited audience at Empire Big Screen this morning. I popped my specs off to look at the dual image because, frankly, the pulsing, flickering, strobing effect of the out-of-sync lenses was unwatchable.
So let’s leave most discussion of the 3D aside and concentrate on other factors.
The sequence is all set-up with the mercenary Puss coming to a bar and accepting a mission to steal magic beans from Jack and Jill. Pretty soon, it becomes clear what both of the recurring joke types are going to be, already familiar from Puss’ appearances in the Shrek movies:
One – he’s a cat, and he does cat things, like lapping at his drink, being distracted by little dancing flickers of reflected light or dragging his itchy ass along the ground (I know – ewwww).
Two – he’s macho, and a pretty amusing caricature of the full-of-himself type. The gaddish Tom, if you will.
Luckily, they find a lot of variants on these gags and there was obviously more than enough mileage to get us through this sequence. I imagine there’s enough for a film too.
I don’t want to spoil too much, but as the scene went on, Puss meets a rival crook (cat thief, no less) and they end up becoming rivals. Though I was only able to infer what the 3D would be from its two-at-once, overlayed state, there was obviously a nice beat here where, as Puss realises there’s another crook there, the image comes pushing forward towards the audience – a much more subtle stereo equivalent of a zoom into the characters’ face on the “reaction”. It’s probably not too obvious in 3D, but it will be felt, and its a good choice for this moment. Nice work.
Anybody with even a passing awareness of the film’s set up will know that this rival is Salma Hayek as Kitty Softpaws even before she takes her mask off. In animation as in life, Ms. Hayek would be distinctive only in silhouette.
The last extended sequence was a flamenco tinged dance-off at a bandits’ bar where it’s “Tuesday Night Dance Fight Club”. There’s a lot of “But they’re cats!” but also some good character business as Puss’ alpha male posturing starts to get shaken.
It was almost a shame that we had to see this scene in animation and there’s no live action dance-off between Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. That kind of larking could be a great use of those actors respective charms so, get on it Hollywood.
Biggest laugh in the sequence went to a supporting character, another cat who underlines big, dramatic reveals in the story with a wide eye look of shock and worried “Oooooohhhh!” exclaimation. He’s particularly amusing because we know that we’re watching a relatively straight up story, packed with conventional plot points, and this funny little cat can indicate these moments’ familiarity and melodrama all at once.
We know the Oooooohhhh! cat is a running gag too, because he appeared in the montage of sizzle-ish footage that closed out the clip. In one tiny moment we saw big pale egg Humpty Dumpty making reference to something being “over easy”, apparently unaware of what he’s saying. Cue “Oooooohhhhhh!” and more big laughs from the crowd.
All in all, this was a nice sequence that suggests Puss in Boots will be rooted in character, have some good gags and a fun cast. I’m sure the 3D will be tremendous too, coming as it does from Dreamworks’ animation team, dedicated as they are to getting stereo right and using it well.