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Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Review

July 15, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Image Credit: Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies
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Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Review  

Directed By: Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier, and Chris Bailey
Written By: Ed Stone & Nate Hopper, Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, and Alan Uger
Runtime: 97 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG for action, violence, rude and suggestive humor, and some language.

Michael Cera – Hank the Dog
Samuel L. Jackson – Jimbo
Ricky Gervais – Ika Chu
Kylie Kuioka – Emiko
George Takei – Ohga
Djimon Hounsou – Sumo
Gabriel Iglesias – Chuck
Aasif Mandvi – Ichiro
Michelle Yeoh – Yuki
Cathy Shim – Little Mama
Mel Brooks – The Shogun

Nickelodeon Movies presents an attempt to remake Mel Brooks’ seminal western parody, Blazing Saddles, with less than stellar results in the CG-animated family comedy, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank. Using the original film as its outline, co-directors Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier, and Chris Bailey switch out the original film’s usage of human racism with dogs and cats, so the metaphor has less impact and is kiddie appropriate. However, not even the film’s liberal usage of the original’s material and callbacks can elevate Paws of Fury into something genuinely worth watching.

Since the film is an animated family comedy aimed at younger audiences, Paws of Fury is set in a world of anthropomorphic dogs and cats. They live on their own isolated continents because cats hate dogs and do not trust them. The dastardly overlord, Ika Chu (Gervais), seeks to wipe the humble, small village of Kakamucho off the map since he thinks it interferes with the view from his palace and lowering his standing with the realm’s Shogun (Brooks). Ika Chu besets bandits in the village to scare away Kakamucho’s local protector, The Samurai, and terrorize the townsfolk to get them to leave. The townspeople request the Shogun for the aid of a new samurai. The Shogun charges Ika Chu with this task, not realizing the dastardly cat is the person responsible for Kakamucho’s plight.

Enter the down-on-his-luck pup, Hank (Cera), who has traveled to the Land of Cats because he dreams of becoming a samurai. Despite the realm of the cats’ strict “no dogs allowed” policy, Ika Chu offers Hank a stay of execution to become Kakamucho’s newly appointed samurai. Ika Chu does this with the hope that the townspeople will hate and want to kill Hank, giving Ika Chu legal cause to crush the village. Ignorant of Ika Chu’s intentions, Hank travels to Kakamucho and receives a rather harsh welcome. While Hank is little more than a rank amateur, he is serious about helping the village. He seeks the assistance of a once great samurai, Jimbo (Jackson), to train him to become a true samurai to save Kakamucho and its people from Ika Chu.

Paws of Fury is a half-baked attempt to remake Brooks’ classic western satire. It uses some of the same gags and jokes, yet has no identity of its own. The dialogue is rather pedestrian. There are quite a few notable names throughout the cast, but not even Ricky Gervais voicing an evil, tyrannical feline despot can save the film from mediocrity. Some credit is at least due to George Takei, who voices Ika Chu’s dimwitted minion Ohga, and Mel Brooks as the Shogun. Even at their advanced age, they still deliver the film’s most competent, vocally charismatic performances. Most of the other actors in the cast sound like they took their respective gigs for a quick and easy payday.

Since the world of the film is populated with cats and dogs, most of the material is centered on animal puns and wordplay. Honestly, there are some amusing gags here and there. Paws of Fury is passable enough as appropriate entertainment for children, but it’s more like cinematic junk food than anything enriching. The material that is recycled from the original film is so severely dumbed down that it lacks any impact. At the height of his filmmaking career, Mel Brooks was a comedic genius. He could do a lot with very little, and he was a master of irreverent comedy. Most of the comedic attempts here are not funny, and the characters are not particularly likable or charming.

Now, there are a few entertaining bits here and there. There is an amusing riff on Twitter messages that is cute. The way the world displays telephone lines, with a giant line of cats playing a literal game of back-and-forth telephone, is amusing. However, despite the few genuinely funny moments, the film has too many clunkers. Or the jokes are always desperately attempting to riff on cliche movie moments. Needless to say, the famous reveal from The Empire Strikes Back has been parodied so much that it stopped being funny over 20 years ago.

While Paramount presents Paws of Fury under the Nickelodeon Movies label, it appears to have no less than seven production companies attached to its name. The endless parade of logos before the film even began raises a lot of red flags. It reeks of having too many cooks in the kitchen, leaving an animated feature that lacks its own identity. The film has a feature-length, voices, characters, and somewhat of a structure, but it is more like an imitation of an animated feature rather than a real one. Some of the kitten characters are cute, but something appears off about the adult cats.

In terms of the animation, most of it looks decently competent, though not particularly impressive. The only scenes that provide a bit more pizzazz are some flashbacks that are presented with a slightly more unique, stylized look, resembling printed (imagery). There is also an amusing, if derivative, riff on West Side Story.

Parents can likely take their kids to see Paws of Fury, and the kids might find it entertaining. There might even be a few thrown-in gags the adults will enjoy. Despite the critters that inhabit this anthropomorphic world, Paws of Fury is an overall toothless, animated endeavor. Rather than all bark and no bite, Paws of Fury more closely resembles annoying, squeaky yips.

The final score: review Bad
The 411
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is a severely dumbed-down, subpar attempt at an animated remake of the classic western Mel Brooks parody, Blazing Saddles. It lacks a true identity or charm on its own. Most of the main actors' vocal performances fail to spice up the film. While there is likely enough to keep kids entertained and distracted for a brief period, Paws of Fury is a vapid, forgettable animated experience.