July 15th, 2022
MOVIE: PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK
STARRING: MICHAEL CERA, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, RICKY GERVAIS, KYLIE KUIOKA, MEL BROOKS, GEORGE TAKEI
DIRECTED BY: CHRIS BAILEY, MARK KOETSIER, ROB MINKOFF
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
One major test in my reviews for animated kids movies these days is how my four year-old Lucas Brady responds to the material. At this age he’s entertained by anything, just putting a bag of popcorn in his lap, and a chance to see something new excites him. The fact that he barely made a sound watching Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank was not a good sign, and I wasn’t much of a fan of it either. It’s a hero’s tale, about a dog coming to a village of cats, with hopes to become the new samurai to protect the people from an evil cat’s plan to take over. It feels partially inspired by Kung-Fu Panda or various other Disney movies, where the final result is not clever enough or funny enough to make things legendary.
It begins in the village of Kakamucho, where high above in the palace is Ika Chu (voiced by Ricky Gervais), the cat that oversees that part of the realm for the Shogun (voiced by Mel Brooks). His plan is to take over the entire kingdom, one village at a time, but in order to do that he must remove the samurai of every town, which would allow his army of ninja cats to wreak havoc, and scare the people away. In order to assure failure, Ika Chu sends Hank (voiced by Michael Cera), the only dog to become a samurai in a cat world . And as we know, cats don’t like dogs, but Hank has the drive to become the best dog samurai these felines have ever seen. With training from a portly cat named Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), Hank hopes to be the next great warrior, where Paws of Fury becomes an animated take on Blazing Saddles.
The funny part about Paws of Fury is how it flies in the face of the countless amount of pearl clutching folks that claim, “Blazing Saddles could never be made today”, and here we are, with a screenplay by Ed stone and Nate Hopper, using the guide of Mel Brooks’ film. The direction from Chris Bailey, Mark Koetsier, and Rob Minkoff feels like it’s stopping short of its potential. It has brief moments of funny winks to the camera, various comments by characters that the movie is a breezy ninety-seven minutes, and Hank excited when he gets to do a training montage. Sadly those laughs are too few and far between, which are filled in by jokes that don’t land at all. My son might be a tougher laugh to get, but he was cracking up during Minions: The Rise of Gru, which just might be a better sell for the kids.
Another factor that hurts Paws of Fury is the animation, which has an odd look of Saturday morning cartoons. In so many ways it is the complete opposite from animated movies such as Turning Red or The Sea Beast this year, leaving very little impact on our eyeballs or imagination. The other bigger flop is the waste of great voice actors, where Michael Cera perfectly has the sound of a nervous dog, along with Samuel L. Jackson who lent his powerful vibrato, only for both of them to embody characters that are more stereotypes instead of anything unique. There’s really just not much there to love the characters or want to continue their journey.
It’s the comedy as well that becomes lackluster, where the majority of laughs are generated from fart jokes and butt gags. Some of the kids in the theater laughed but it felt greatly like a ploy instead of smart humor. It’s all a shame really, because Paws of Fury has the potential and deserves a hat tip for trying to repurpose Blazing Saddles into a fun kids movie. It was a risk and unfortunately it did not pay off. I’m a cat person but Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is nothing to meow about.
PAWS OF FURY: THE LEGEND OF HANK IS PLAYING IN THEATERS FRIDAY JULY 15TH, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady