Review: 'Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank' (2022) Dirs. Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier & Chris Bailey
Cited as a soft retelling of cult comedy 'Blazing Saddles' for kids, this has the man himself Mel Brooks in the cast and lend his production company to bring this animated spoof to life...
A manipulative, mean and power hungry Ika Chu (Gervais) longs to expand his palace and his control over an ancient land populated mostly by cats, harkening back to ancient Japan. Chu has one village left to eradicate for his expansion - the quiet hamlet of Kakamucho.
In order to turn the village on its head, Chu persuades the Shogun (Brooks) to assign a new samurai protector. In doing do, Chu makes sure the worst samurai is picked to "protect" Kakomucho, paving the way for Chu and his forces to easily wipe it off the map.
The aspiring samurai is a dog, Hank (Cera), and despite a shaky start he becomes a hero in the eyes of the village. With the help of former samurai teacher Jimbo (Jackson), Hank must train hard to repel Chu's forces, save Kakamucho and help the Shogun restore peace to the land...
In the same light as 2008s Kung Fu Panda, this animated madcap comedy it set in what can only be described as ancient Japan but populated by animals, mostly cats. It also features the voice talent of Mel Brooks, is co-produced by his company Brooksfilms and has many nods and winks to his 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles. However, this is for the kids and is a story about redemption, overcoming adversity and prejudice and standing up for the little people.
Michael Cera is our beagle, the "dog" out of water in a land of cats who wants to be a mighty samurai. Setup by the evil Ricky Gervais to protect a village that he secretly wants rid of, Cera's Hank needs to learn how to be the best, to understand his limitations and fight the good fight to save the village and it's cats. Enter Samuel L Jackson's samurai trainer and George Takei as a hulking warrior, and all the characters are here to mirror their Saddles counterparts. The voice cast including Djimon Hounsou and Michelle Yeoh is a great mix, especially Gervais and Jackson who are having lots of fun in their respective roles, and not to mention a few little in-jokes to their previous works.
The animation may not break new ground, but it brings the iconography of ancient Japan to life, and is often very dramatic in style and colour for a very mystical adventure.
It's a shame there is nothing really new or exciting in terms of story or visual style to help this stand out amidst the slew of big-name animated blockbusters out there. This isn't part of a franchise, or an adaptation from a popular source, and on the surface looks like a pale imitation of our kung-fu panda and crew. But when you give it a chance and see there is some clear thought behind this, the tongue-in-cheek of Brooks drips through, offering a few cheeky chuckles along the way whilst having zany action to keep it entertaining, cemented by our cast.
An epic score by Bear McCreary adds to the Japanese theme of samurai, ninja and martial arts that certainly delivers in the action stakes with lots of self-aware comedy that never takes itself too seriously, as Cera's Hank reminds the assembling cat army that the film is only 85mins long, not including end credits, so they can't waste time!
Fear not however, because along with the comical ninja / paw slapping conflict between cats of all shapes and sizes, there is the usual child friendly morals on offer here about friendship, faith, equality and being a team.
Well worth giving a chance, thanks to the strong voice cast and Mel Brooks inspired comedy and plot, 'Paws Of Fury' is a simple animation that looks great and is family friendly, fantastical fun.
'Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank' is a co-production between Flying Tigers Entertainment,
Align, GFM Animation, Aniventure, HB Wink Animation, Cinesite and Brooksfilms