Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank
dir Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier, Chris Bailey
scr Ed Stone, Nate Hopper, Mel Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Alan Uger
prd Rob Minkoff, Adam Nagle, Peter Nagle, Guy Collins, Yair Landau, Susan Purcell
voices Michael Cera, Samuel L Jackson, Ricky Gervais, Mel Brooks, Kylie Kuioka, George Takei, Djimon Hounsou, Michelle Yeoh, Aasif Mandvi, Gabriel Iglesias, Cathy Shim, Rob Minkoff
release US 15.Jul.22,
UK 22.Jul.22
22/US 1h38

cera jackson gervais

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Hank and Jimbo
Unsurprisingly, this animated remake of Mel Brooks' classic Western pastiche Blazing Saddles opens with a meta-gag followed quickly by a steady flow of naughty puns. The original's racism theme is replaced by cats-and-dogs rivalry. And while the nonstop flurry of jokes don't all hit the mark, there's enough madcap silliness to keep the audience entertained. Still, fans may be disappointed that the movie never goes off the rails.
In a feudal Japan ruled by cats, Lord Ika Chu (Gervais) chases off the samurai protector of a nearby village, preparing to demolish it. But residents petition the Shogun (Brooks) to supply a new one. Ika Chu chooses Hank (Cera), who as a despised dog is doomed to failure. Soon after arriving, Hank meets the drunken has-been Jimbo (Jackson), who offers to train him to fight. And Hank's quick wit makes him a formidable foe, even after Ika Chu deploys the fearsome Sumo (Hounsou). But can Hank's ragtag villagers fend off Ika Chu's ninja army?
With a crowd of writers, directors and producers, the movie uses a mix of eye-catching animation. Scattered through the manic slapstick and toilet humour are snappy zingers, silly punchlines and lots of broad satire. And while the plot has been reduced to action beats, it reprises many of the most memorable gags (yes, that one). Although there's no romantic plotline, depriving us of the original's best role.

Still, Hank is likeably open-minded as he learns he can never be a cat. So he trains to become a better dog. And Jimbo's journey to redemption has some witty twists along the way. Cera and Jackson voice them with heart and spark. Gervais plays on his sneery persona, while Brooks hilariously reprises his original role. A lot more could have been made of some of the side figures, most notably females like heroic kitten Emiko (Kuioka) and her wise mother Yuki (Yeoh).

Innuendo and comedy violence aside, this is a deliberately family-friendly variation on the original, while the premise offers a gentle thematic undercurrent. Still, it's the goofiness that makes it continuously entertaining, ricocheting from one set-piece to the next using energetically chaotic animation and an only barely bridled sense of humour that's occasionally allowed to get edgy. But while it's still a lot of fun, the storytelling is never quite as ambitious as it should be for a remake of a film that remains a one-off masterpiece of riotous absurdity.

cert 15 themes, violence, innuendo 20.Jul.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall