Puss In Boots: The Last Wish Beat Sheet Analysis
See how Puss in Boots: The Last Wish hits Blake Snyder’s 15 story beats!
Screenplay by: Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow
Story by: Tommy Swerdlow and Tom Wheeler
Additional Screenplay Material by: Etan Cohen
Directed by: Joel Crawford
Co-Director: Januel P. Mercado
Genre: Golden Fleece
Opening Image: After a prologue telling the tale of the Wishing Star, we find Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) in all his glory: proud, triumphant, and confident.
Set-Up: As the town celebrates his heroic good deeds, Puss in Boots stands before the crowd, accepting their adoration.
Theme Stated: Puss in Boots leads them in a song about himself in which he asks, “Who is your favorite fearless hero?” As he is showered with praise, his song is also referencing the thematic premise, which centers on fear. Puss claims that he has no fear, but does his bravado truly know no bounds? Or is there something deeper that will challenge his ideas about self image?
Set-Up (Continued): As the townspeople continue to celebrate in song, the owner of the mansion, the governor, arrives. Puss may be an outlaw, but as we witness him fight off the governor’s men, we also realize he’s showing off in style. Although he’s brave, he is also a bit braggadocious, which will end up being his Shard of Glass. He claims he’s never been touched by a blade, and though his life might seem great on the outside, there are definitely things that need fixing.
He lives life to the fullest… but maybe a little too full. He’s confident… but maybe a little too confident. After a Save the Cat! Moment (err… Save the Humans…) in which Puss in Boots turns his attention to fighting a giant troll that attacks the mansion, he once more celebrates his prowess. That is, until a giant bell falls on him, killing him.
He wakes up and finds himself staring at the village veterinarian, who helps Puss realize that he is on his last life. He suggests that Puss go live with Mama Luna, who will ensure that he has a safe life. Puss, however, refuses to change. In fact, it’s a clear case that stasis = death for him is quite literal. As Puss leaves to go to the bar, the veterinarian tells him, “Death comes for us all.”
Catalyst: While drinking at the bar, Puss hears a haunting whistle, and a cloaked figure (Wagner Moura) sits next to him. The individual, a wolf, speaks of wanting to take the final life of the great Puss in Boots, though Puss declares that he’s fought bounty hunters before, and none have succeeded.
But as Puss meets the wolf’s challenge, something different happens. The hunter’s blade pierces Puss’s skin, drawing blood. Puss’s hair stands on end, and he is filled with fear. Dropping his sword, he runs away and hides.
Debate: Why was Puss suddenly stricken with fright? Realizing that he might not be the fearless feline the people sung about, he decides to take the path to safety, going to Mama Luna’s (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). There, he buries his clothes and slowly succumbs to the death of his dignity, adjusting to the drudgery of life as a normal cat. As his thesis world takes shape, he longs for the days when he didn’t eat cat food or use a litter box. He’s miserable, and just when he thinks that life couldn’t get worse, he meets a dog pretending to be a cat (Harvey Gullién).
Perrito, as he will come to be known, believes he will one day become a therapy dog, and invites Puss to rub his belly for comfort; Puss passes on the offer. In a double-bump, Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo) show up at Mama Luna’s looking for Puss; they need him to pull off a heist to steal a magical map from Jack Horner (John Mulaney) that will lead them to the Wishing Star. Thinking Puss is, indeed, dead, they storm off, ready to take on Horner.
Break into Two: Puss overhears Goldilocks and the news about the Wishing Star. Believing it’s just what he needs to extend his life and be able to live fearlessly once more, he sets out to Jack Horner’s place to get the magical map, accompanied by Perrito.
B Story: Puss arrives at Horner’s place and attempts to steal the map from the chest it’s in. Just as Goldilocks and the Bears storm in, he opens the chest, finding his former acquaintance Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). Their relationship will expose Puss in Boots’s Shard of Glass as he confronts the way fear has manifested itself in his life, both past and present.
Fun and Games: Along with Kitty, Puss escapes with the magical map. Jack Horner, angered, sets out after them, bringing along his bag of magical items to help him. Also seeking the map are Goldilocks and her Bear family. All of the teams fulfill the promise of the premise as they travel down the fairy tale road into the Dark Forest to find the prize of the Wishing Star. The fabled star will only grant a wish to the first person who finds it. Of course, doing so will be harder than it seems.
As Puss and his team arrive at the Dark Forest, the map changes depending on who holds it, revealing a bit of their heart. Puss and Kitty are confronted with dark and dangerous paths, revealing their lack of trust in others. When Perrito touches the map, however, it is filled with more pleasant obstacles, as he is the most positive of the bunch. The trio travels down the path and faces the challenges ahead of them, with their enemies following behind.
Midpoint: As the trio floats down a river, Puss loses some of his bravado, and he begins to soften. As Kitty cuts off his beard, he begins to see her as he once did, with love. Soon, Perrito is captured by Goldilocks and the Bears. Puss attempts to fight them and rescue the dog, but when he hears the ominous whistle, he’s flooded by fear once again and runs away.
Panicking, Puss hides, resting against a tree. As Perrito escapes, he finds Puss and notices that something is very wrong. Perrito places his head against Puss’s stomach. Soon, Puss’s breathing slows down, and a serene calm sets in. Puss thanks him, and tells him about his fear, confiding in Perrito that he isn’t as brave as he lets on.
As A and B Stories cross in this false defeat, he tells of how he was supposed to meet Kitty at a church one day long ago, but he left her at the altar, afraid that he was someone who was meant to be alone. Kitty, who has been scornful since reuniting with Puss, overhears this and softens. The stakes raise and time clocks appear as they set out with renewed strength, determined to reach the Wishing Star first.
Bad Guys Close In: Not only do the external bad guys like Goldilocks and Jack Horner follow Puss, but his internal ones plague him as well as he doubts his bravery and regrets his past, knowing this is his final life unless he finds the star. He knows that Kitty has a wish, too, and for him to take it for his own would deny her the thing she desires. He’s torn, but he continues on.
Goldilocks isn’t without her own internal bad guys. Her wish is to have a “normal” family without the Bears, but she is afraid to tell them. They believe their family is “just right.” When Puss takes the map, the magic causes it to change, and he finds himself stuck inside the Cave of Lost Souls. Perrito falls into a trap set by Goldilocks, and Kitty races off to find him, leaving Puss alone in the cave.
There, Puss faces reflections of his past lives, ones who mock him for his newfound sense of care for this life. As he struggles against them and turns to leave, the bounty hunter emerges from the shadows and stands in front of him, somehow in the cave. As the hunter destroys the visages of Puss’s past selves, he reveals the truth: he is Death. Puss hurries away in a terrified panic. Meanwhile, Perrito helps Goldilocks see the value of her found family before he is rescued by Kitty.
All Is Lost: Racing ahead, Puss comes upon the Wishing Star. Although he’s found it, it’s a false victory for him; Kitty discovers that he has found it alone, and she now believes that he was using her all along. There’s a whiff of death for their healing relationship, and though Puss tries to explain himself, the enemies arrive and try to take the map.
Dark Night of the Soul: They fight, and Perrito finds himself with the map. He brings it to Puss, telling him that he doesn’t know what to wish for, but if Puss thinks he needs those lives, he wants to give it to his new friend. “You know,” Perrito says, “I’ve only ever had one life, but sharing it with you and Kitty has made it pretty special. Maybe one life is enough.”
Just then, Puss hears the familiar whistle, and Death arrives, surrounding the two of them with a magical barrier. But now, having gone through the transformation machine, Puss is not going to run in fear. Taking what Perrito taught him, he stares Death in the face, literally, and states that he only cares about living the life he has. He isn’t fighting for the Wishing Star to wish for more lives, but for the life he has right now. It has taken fear to show him what really matters.
Break into Three: Puss picks up his sword, which Death has brought back to him, and the two face off.
Finale: The fight ensues as everyone else watches, and Puss eventually has Death on the ropes. “I know that I will never defeat you, lobo,” Puss tells him. “But I will never stop fighting for this life.” Eventually, Death relents, telling Puss that he wanted to take the life of the fabled hero who took his previous eight lives for granted. But that individual is gone now. Instead, he sees Puss in his synthesis world.
In a high tower surprise, Jack Horner uses magic to make himself bigger, obtaining the Wishing Star. As Horner prepares to make his wish to have all the magic in the world to himself, Goldilocks also realizes the goodness in the life she’s been granted with the Bears. Together, her family and Puss’s family take on Horner, defeating him.
Final Image: Puss sits with Kitty and Perrito as the sun sets. They are now a team, made whole, and a coda to the story hints that there will be plenty more excitement in the rest of the life Puss has before him.