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Aural Fixation: ‘Puss In Boots’ — Not Your Ordinary Dance Movie

By  · Published on October 27th, 2011

The tale of Puss In Boots is not all swordplay and adventure-seeking, Puss is also a lover (yeah – it gets a little weird) and his boots were not just made for walking, they were made for dancing too. From the opening guitar riffs, Puss In Boots has a frenetic energy that keeps the story moving and reminds you that beyond the innuendos and back-story, Puss truly is (and will always be) an adventurer at heart. Composer Henry Jackman (Winnie The Pooh, X-Men: First Class) takes the reigns for this spin-off (the previous Shrek films having been scored by Harry Gregson-Williams) creating a Latin-infused score that also utilizes full-bodied orchestration to keep the feel and sound of a grand adventure.

Jackman has created a score that is reminiscent of classic animated features with the music underscoring the action on screen. The music swells as the group takes off on a chase (“Chasing Tail”) and tip toes as they are trying to sneak around undetected (“Kitty-Cat Break-Out”). But Jackman’s score also feels very modern and keeps up with the 3D animation featured on screen.

Puss (Antonio Banderas) is a Spaniard (naturally) and as such, the score features Latin guitars and percussion you cannot help but tap your feet to. To create the authentic Latin sound, Jackman tapped Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela and their impressive guitar playing is featured on “Diablo Rojo.” The music is infectious and causes you to feel torn between wanting to duel, or dance. But have no fear, Puss In Boots is one side step ahead of us all and has Puss face off against one his antagonists not with swords or fists, but by putting his famous boots to work in a good ol’ fashioned dance-off.

The footwork Puss and his worthy adversary, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), go paw-to-paw with are impressive and almost rival that of a live action dance movie. Granted, yes, dancing up walls and defying gravity are easily achieved with animation, but the spirit is similar to the dance battles featured in live action films and when something death defying does happen, it is almost done more as a wink to the audience that these are dancing cats we are watching. (The showdown takes place at a club called the Glitter Box – with the ‘G’ having burned out so it reads…well, you get it)

While the dancing was a highlight, Puss’ main goal in the film is to steal the magic beans from Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris) so he can climb the beanstalk and steal the legendary golden goose’s eggs. Jackman does a good job of varying the score to reflect what is happening on screen with “The Magic Beanstalk” having a sense of magic and whimsy to it while “Confronting the Past” has a classic spaghetti Western influence. These various styles and tones help give the score a layered effect making it an equally interesting aspect to accompany what is happening in the film. Animation has certainly advanced and stepped up its game over the years, but the scores for these films have as well. (See: John Powell’s score for How To Train Your Dragon and Michael Giacchino’s score for Up.)

Music is no longer just an added aspect to keep the story moving along or give the kids something to sing-along to; it has begun featuring impressive musicians and arrangements to go along with the increasingly impressive animation and actors lending their famous voices to the characters. Puss has always had music associated with him whenever he would appear in the Shrek films and that idea has only been expanded on here. If you have a pair of spiffy boots and a need for adventure, grab this soundtrack and ride off in search of your own tail (I mean – tale).

The Upside: The guitar work on “Diablo Rojo” is worth the price of admission and/or the $0.99 to download if you are looking for what could be considered a “single” from the film.

The Downside: If you are not into Latin-styled music, this score could begin to get monotonous, especially when listened to on its own.

On the Side: Can we get a full-length animated dance movie? I feel like the Shrek universe had enough characters to breakdown into two rival dance teams – Puss has clearly got some fancy footwork and I always thought Donkey looked like he could bust a move.

Grade: B

This soundtrack is available through Sony Classical.

  1. “Bad Kitty”
  2. “One Leche”
  3. “Jack and Jill”
  4. “Holy Frijoles”
  5. “Chasing Tail”
  6. “Diablo Rojo”
  7. “Humpty Dumpty & Kitty Softpaws”
  8. “The Orphanage”
  9. “Honor and Justice”
  10. “That Fateful Night”
  11. “The Wagon Chase”
  12. “Team Effort”
  13. “Planting the Beans”
  14. “The Magic Beanstalk”
  15. “Castle in the Clouds”
  16. “Golden Goose of Legend”
  17. “Hanuman”
  18. “Confronting the Past”
  19. “I Was Always There”
  20. “Kitty-Cat Break-Out”
  21. “The Great Terror”
  22. “Farewell to San Ricardo”
  23. “The Puss Suite”
  24. “The Giant’s Castle”

All the songs on this soundtrack composed by Henry Jackman.

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