Before the previews started for Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, my son and I were the only ones in the theater. A few more small families strolled in during the previews, but there were nine people total in the theater. Was this the greatest animated film of all time? Absolutely not, not even close! HOWEVER, if you have kids and want to take them to a movie that you can get some laughs from, this movie is definitely an option for you.
If you weren’t aware, myself included, Paws of Fury is essentially a kid friendly version of Blazing Saddles, the 1974 Western black comedy starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. Blazing Saddles was directed by Mel Brooks, who executive produced and voiced a character in Paws of Fury, complete with classic Mel Brooks one liners and references to his work. From the big opening number to breaking the fourth wall, it pays homage to one of the best comedies and comedic directors of all time.
We follow our main character Hank (Michael Cera), a dog who has traveled to a land entirely populated by cats to become a samurai. He is appointed the town samurai by Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) who wants to destroy the town of Kakamucho to expand his palace. Hank then meets Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), a former samurai who agrees to train Hank to become a samurai. They are all based on characters from Blazing Saddles and have the same roles essentially: Hank is Sheriff Bart (Cleavon LIttle), Ika Chu is Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman), and Jimbo is Jim/The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder).
Michael Cera and Samuel L. Jackson have good back and forth as Hank and Jimbo, and it’s hilarious to hear how they gave Samuel L. Jackson the opportunities to almost curse in the film. Ricky Gervais plays the villain well, very smarmy and sarcastic like he should be. George Takei voices Ohga, based on Mongo from Blazing Saddles, and has some funny moments.
The supporting cast also has some familiar names as well: Michelle Yeoh, Djimon Hounsou, Aasif Mandvi, and Gabriel Iglesias. While they aren’t the main focus of the plot, they provide good supporting comedy and have funny moments with Hank. Kylie Kiuoka as Emiko is the strongest member of the supporting cast, a small cat that no one takes seriously who also has a dream of becoming a samurai.
There is also a Big Nate short before the movie starts, which I didn’t know was going to happen going into it. My son really loves the Big Nate book series, so if you have kids who know the books, they will enjoy the short as well.
At the end of the day, this movie wasn’t made for me. Blazing Saddles wasn’t either, but I’m more of a target audience for that now than Paws of Fury. This movie was made for my son, who gave it a 10/10. It also gives me the opportunity in the future to introduce him to Mel Brooks’ work when he gets older, because he has made some truly great films. If that is the result of seeing Paws of Fury, that makes it worth it for me!