REVIEW: ‘Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank’ remakes an adult comedy classic into an animated movie for modern-day kids
SALT LAKE CITY — There’s no other way to say it. I never thought I would have occasion to describe a kids animated movie as “a remake of Blazing Saddles,” the highly irreverent and very politically incorrect 1974 Mel Brooks comedy. Yet here we are.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is a movie about a dog who goes to become the samurai protector of a town full of cats where no dogs are allowed. But the plot, certain scenes and key moments are straight remakes or adaptations from Brooks’ original film.
In fact, the original working title of the movie was Blazing Samurai, Mel Brooks himself is an executive producer for Hank and also provides the voice for one of the characters.
A kind but naïve dog named Hank (voiced by Michael Cera) has journeyed into the nation of cats to learn how to be a samurai. A ruthless cat leader named Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) wants to secretly wipe a nearby village off the map in order to take possession of the land.
So Ika Chu convinces the trusting Hank to go be the town’s protector, even though Hank has no samurai skills, while planning to send his own army to overwhelm Hank and overrun the town.
In order to protect the village, Hank will need help from villagers who hate him for being a dog, as well convince a reluctant teacher (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) to train him so he can become a samurai and hopefully save the day.
THINGS I LIKED
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank benefits from a solid cast–in addition to the voices previously mentioned you’ll also hear George Takei, Gabriel Iglesias, Djimon Hounsou, and Michelle Yeoh in key roles.
It also has solid comedy DNA. People who’ve seen Blazing Saddles will catch the many references made in this movie, but the story adapts surprisingly well to a kid audience. Though the original would never work in today’s climate, it’s worth pointing out that a few years ago the American Film Institute named it one of the top 10 comedies ever made.
While this movie is ostensibly for kids (it’s released under the Nickelodeon banner of Paramount), it is clever enough for adults to potentially enjoy. I feel that by using dogs and cats instead of Blacks and Whites, Paws of Fury shows that the essence of the humor behind Blazing Saddles is less crass and more universal than you might have thought.
I also felt Legend of Hank has some additional good messages in its own right, and I thought it had a better ending than Blazing Saddles.
Paws of Fury is rother than some flatulence jokes—another callback to the original movie—it really is safe for families.
The run time, as Mel Brooks’ character points out during the movie itself, is “a brisk 86 minutes (without credits)”.
Your expectations going into this movie will likely determine how you feel when you’re finished with it. I had low expectations and actually found Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank to be as funny in its own way as the latest Minions movie. If you go in with high expectations, you may be disappointed.
Nevertheless, I do think adults and kids can both enjoy this movie. I also think it will suffer from a lack of preexisting familiarity among audiences that Minions benefited from and there’s no social media trend associated with this one to help it either.
Andy’s final rating: TWO out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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