This is a character analysis of Perrito from Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
Comic relief, as a narrative trope, is profoundly annoying. Watch any MCU project — except for Black Panther — and you’ll find bathos: undercutting a dramatic moment, and the thematic and emotional impact of its sincerity, with out-of-place, trivial humor. It’s even worse when the comic relief is consolidated into a whole character. C-3PO, Jar Jar, and Neeku from Star Wars; Pippin for far too much of the Lord of the Rings movies.
But Puss in Boots: The Last Wish did something special: it created a comic relief character — but one whose humor is precisely the opposite of out-of-place and trivial. All the laughs Perrito gets from the audience are a result of the various ways in which he represents all the things the other main characters need to learn in order to overcome their flaws.
The comic relief is a key part of the dramatic storytelling, thereby enhancing it instead of distracting from or undercutting it.
Perrito and His Wishful Friends
In The Last Wish, Goldie is obsessed with getting a wish: having her old family. Whereas, even while he’s talking about his old family, Perrito doesn’t exhibit any envy or grief. We laugh, with pity, at how he speaks of them with such fondness while simultaneously not realizing that they abandoned him; and we laugh at how he eagerly fits himself into other groups’ dynamics — first Puss and Kitty, then Goldie and the Bears.
But the truth is, Perrito won’t compare one person to another, one family to another. He values family as a source of love, and as people whom he can love and help out in turn. Envying or grieving an old family would waste time that could be spent finding a new family. And rather than envy or grief, it would be better to feel the joy and belonging of a new family.
Puss in Boots
Speaking of: in The Last Wish, Puss is obsessed with getting a wish: having more than one life. Whereas, throughout the film, Perrito is constantly excited, upbeat, and joyful. We laugh because he so starkly contrasts the depressed mood of Puss, the main character; and because his optimism seems naive.
But the truth is, Perrito is enjoying his life; and even when he does get serious or somber, such as when Puss has a panic attack and talks to him about betraying Kitty’s trust, Perrito doesn’t let that mood linger past its usefulness. He has a family, he’s on an adventure — he’s not going to let some bad memories, a bit of criticism, or the existence of a mean capitalist get him down.
Speaking of: in The Last Wish, Kitty is obsessed with getting a wish: having someone she’s guaranteed to be able to trust. Whereas, trusting others comes quite easily to Perrito — despite the fact that everyone from his old family to Puss and Kitty are constantly manipulating, insulting, or betraying him. We laugh, with pity, at how he doesn’t realize that this is what’s happening; and we laugh at how he doesn’t really get why Puss and Kitty don’t trust each other, or why they’re hesitant to trust him.
But the truth is, Kitty doesn’t understand that trust always involves a leap of faith to some degree; it’s never really guaranteed, because other people can and will make their own choices for their own reasons. She wants to cut out that doubt by having her wish make it guaranteed.
Perrito, on the other hand, chooses to take the risk of being betrayed, or being let down. We might laugh at it as naive; but in the face of Kitty’s paranoia and loneliness, it certainly seems much more fulfilling and healthy — and not to mention, selfless.
Perrito’s Comic Relief is The Last Wish’s Moral Core
And speaking of: in The Last Wish, Jack is obsessed with getting a wish: … uh, something evil and self-serving. Honestly, I don’t totally remember because, much like Jack, the specific wish isn’t the point.
The point is that he, like Goldie, Puss, and Kitty, wants to wish for something that ultimately serves himself. But Perrito doesn’t want a wish. We laugh at how he’ll do anything for Puss and Kitty without question — like going on this whole adventure just to get the chance for them to make a wish, while he couldn’t care less about getting a wish.
But the truth is, highly valuing his family; not letting negativity hold him back; trusting others instead of just looking out for himself — these are all just manifestations of Perrito’s selflessness. A selflessness that puts him directly at odds with the self-professed, irredeemable capitalist, Jack Horner, and the self-interest that he epitomizes.
The dramatic storytelling in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish reveals that the flaws and arcs of the protagonist trio — Puss, Kitty, and Goldie — can’t be resolved without Perrito. Jack’s obvious selfishness helps the audience recognize that the trio, in their respective — and less obviously condemnable — quests for the last wish, are also being selfish. Perrito, meanwhile, embodies and demonstrates, to the audience and to the trio, the various manifestations of selflessness that each of them must adopt in order to overcome their flaw and complete their arc.
We laugh at his family history, his upbeat attitude, his trusting nature — and that is exactly what makes Perrito an example of one way to do comic relief right: use it to enhance the story’s characters and themes, supporting the drama instead of detracting or distracting from it.