The Legend of Hank is a Blazing Mess

The animated kids’s movie fails to live as much as Mel Brooks’ ‘Blazing Saddles,’ on which it was based mostly.

Paramount Pictures

By Will DiGravio · Published on July 18th, 2022

Every as soon as in a whereas, somebody on Twitter will supply the drained, reliably ill-informed take that one couldn’t make Blazing Saddles at present. Obviously, biting satires about racism are being made at present. Believing in any other case is actually lacking the purpose of the entire thing, to start with. 

But the easy reality of the matter is we additionally now have the proof to show that one, in reality, could make the 1974 Mel Brooks film at present. Unfortunately, Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, a new animated film from the Paramount-owned Nickelodeon, instantly borrows the premise of Brooks’ work and turns it into a fiery mess. The lesson? Just as a result of one can make Blazing Saddles at present is not essentially a good factor. 

For anybody who wants a refresher on Brooks’ Western parody, one of the best films of any style ever made, the premise is this: A corrupt political determine (Harvey Korman) needs to get rid of a city referred to as Rock Ridge that stands in the best way of a railroad project that may make him wealthy. To create chaos within the city, he appoints a Black sheriff (Cleavon Little) within the hope that the racist townspeople will overreact and run Rock Ridge into the bottom. Once this occurs, the land might be his. 

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank, which as soon as bore the much less verbose title, Blazing Samurai, follows this primary thought. But as a substitute of racist townspeople, there are prejudiced cats. Predictably, they hate canines. And reasonably than counting on sheriffs to guard them, every city has a samurai. As half of his plot to assert the city, the evil cat Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) appoints a sort canine named Hank (Michael Cera) as samurai. Naturally, the cats don’t reply properly.

Adapting the unique movie on this manner is an intriguing premise. After all, Blazing Saddles, like almost all of Brooks’ different work, is an incisive style research, consistently enjoying on its viewers’s familiarity with conventions and cliches. One can think about how such a movie could possibly be delivered to the animated space with intelligent homages that additionally dissect hate and prejudice in a context appropriate for youngsters. It is a imaginative and prescient, nonetheless, that Paws of Fury comes nowhere near meeting. 

To change into a warrior, Hank will get assist from Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson), a catnip addict and former Samurai, the feline model of Gene Wilder’s Waco Kid. What follows is the standard Kung-Fu Panda-esque story. At instances, within the spirit of Brooks’ movie, characters break the fourth wall. When they do, they usually acknowledge some sort of conference or cliché. Hank, for instance, at one level asks if he is presently within the “training montage.” But, principally, no additional perception or humor follows. Acknowledgment doesn’t equal critique, particularly when the film depends on such drained tropes to maintain shifting. 

The movie comes from a trio of administrators: Rob Minkoff, Mark Koetsier, and Chris Bailey. And maybe surprisingly, the 2 major writers, Ed Stone and Nate Hopper share screenplay credit with the unique writers of Blazing Saddles: Brooks, Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Alan Uger, and Richard Pryor, who died in 2005. The movie’s finest moments come when it sticks to the Blazing Saddles script, both by means of near-direct quotes or mirroring visible gags. In these moments, the movie works. For instance, the well-known beans-eating scene, whereas naturally excessive, finds a humorous new residence. One sees what might have been if Paws of Fury caught extra to the unique’s comedic bones. 

It is particularly disappointing given the movie’s sturdy starting. The cats deal with the beagle Hank with palpable violence. One begins to wonder if the on-the-nose “cats versus dog” set-up would possibly really yield a revelatory movie about prejudice. Instead, Paws of Fury opts for the extra lazy route: a tacky, overly acquainted story about a canine who turns into a warrior and kills a bunch of unhealthy guys to earn respect.

Paws of Fury does have its humorous moments. The supporting voice cast contains Michelle Yeoh, George Takei, Gabriel Iglesias, Djibouti Johnson, and Kylie Kuioka. They squeeze probably the most they’ll out of the weak script. Brooks, who just lately turned ninety-six and is one of the movie’s government producers, performs the chief Shogun. He delivers strains like, “There’s no business like Shogun business!” in his unmistakable voice. It’s the sort of horrible joke solely he can in some way make work. 

If solely the movie had discovered extra Brooksian humor in its adaptation. At the chance of sounding like an outdated man yelling on the clouds above, Paws of Fury, a movie marketed to kids, appears to focus an excessive amount of on the fury. The movie’s loud, ample violence hardly ever yields comedic or emotional impact. Such violence for its personal sake leaves the movie and our heads worse off. 

Animated movies have often turned to earlier works of artwork for inspiration. One wouldn’t have The Lion King if not for Hamlet. And the work of Mel Brooks deserves as a lot respect because the work of Shakespeare and carries with it as a lot of a chance to disclose one thing concerning the world. How dissatisfying it is that Paws of Fury falls so brief of the wealthy potentialities of its supply materials. 

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank debuts in theaters on July 15, 2022

Related Topics: Animation

Will DiGravio is a Brooklyn-based critic, researcher, and video essayist, who has been a contributor at Film School Rejects since 2018. Follow and/or unfollow him on Twitter @willdigravio.

Back to top button