There's no denying the talent and influence that Mel Brooks has had over the years. Throughout the 1960s and into the 1990s, he made some of the most hilarious comedy films that have ever been put on screen filled with a lot of crazy moments and raunchiness that have garnered acclaim and awards and I have loved several of his films. He's a comedic genius and one of his masterpieces is his western comedy from 1974, "Blazing Saddles", a film that nowadays you hear "could never be remade today". Turns out, they did kind of remake it with the newest animated film from Nickelodeon Movies, "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" and it's a film that left me puzzled throughout. It's a film that has none of the humor, charm, and critique the original film has and comes across more like a watered-down Kidz Bop version of "Blazing Saddles" than it does a tribute. This is one of the strangest animated films I have ever seen and not in a good way.
In a kingdom filled with cats, the warmongering cat named Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) has plans to tear down the village of Kakamucho to expand his giant palace though has a problem since the village is occupied. He tries to scare off the villagers with an army and while the town's samurai does run off, the villagers stay put and instead demand a new samurai to Ika Chu. Desperately wanting them out, he comes up with a plan to get the villagers arrested by appointing a dog named Hank (Michael Cera) to be the new samurai in hopes that the townspeople can tear him apart due to their hatred of dogs. He arrives in the town and although the town is angry, they reluctantly accept him despite him having no training. Hoping to become a better samurai, he enlists in an old drunken samurai named Jimbo (Samual L. Jackson) to train him to become a better samurai as Ika Chu prepares to make his move to get rid of the town.
This film has had one of the most troubled productions ever for an animated film. It was announced way back in 2014 though conceived back in 2010 and was supposed to come out in 2016. However, it lost both its animation provider and distributor before finally being finished and released now in 2022. On one hand, I'm glad the film is out and finished after the long, troubled production the film had. On the other hand, the film is really not very good and it just left me feeling baffled and confused about why it was even made. The story is essentially mostly the same as "Blazing Saddles", but not nearly as funny or clever as it. I think the biggest problem the film has mainly comes down to the two big changes they made. The biggest problem mainly comes down to trying to retell "Blazing Saddles" for children and that was a terrible mistake. The original film was a pretty raunchy film that used some language and humor to show how stupid and ridiculous racism is and it led to some pretty funny moments. However, these jokes were written and intended for adults and not children. This film tries to reuse some of the classic jokes from the original film but sanitizes them down so they can work for all ages while making them no longer funny. It just proved to me that the original film doesn't really work as a film dumbed down to kids. The film had way too much meta humor in it as well. While Mel Brooks films are known to have meta humor and have used it quite effectively, this film really overdoes it and it gets old really fast.
The other big problem the story has is that it also tries to do a story of an underdog rising to the top and proving his worth, but doesn't do it nearly as well. There are a lot of tired cliches in the film including a sadness montage set to a sad song while it's also raining. I was rolling my eyes quite a bit. Not to mention, the action sequences were quite boring and it also has a climax that goes on far too long than it should've. As far as the animation goes, it's mostly decent. I do really love the few times the film has traditional animation like the opening titles which looked really nice. I also thought the character designs were not bad either and looked cute at times. However, the animation definitely had a fair amount of problems to it. The film does have some backstories that try to use stylized animation kinda like "The Bad Guys" or "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse", but it looks really lousy. It looked like the animation was rendered normally and then put through a comic book filter in iMovie and I found it really unimpressive. The worst offender though was the effects animation which looked very, very bad. The water looked like jello, the way that sweat and tears ran down the character's faces looked rubbery and unnatural, the fire stayed in one spot and didn't really spread like it should've, and the rain that fell didn't even make puddles. It looked very amateur to me, especially compared to the effects animation in "The Sea Beast" which came out last week and had some amazing effects animation, particularly the water. As far as the characters go, there's really not much to say about them. I really disliked Hank as he came across more like a whiny character who didn't really do anything heroic til the end which made him pale in comparison to Bart in the original film. I also thought that Jimbo came across as a stereotypical teacher character who starts cold and warms up to the hero, though I felt like he didn't really become friends with the character like he should have as was the case with Jim. There's also a young Emiko (Kylie Kuioka) who's just there to be cutesy while tough and Sumo (Djimon Hounsou) who's basically the Mongo character though not funny. I did find the Shogun pretty fun though, mainly because it was Mel Brooks and he's always fun to hear. However, it doesn't really make up for the boring cast of characters the film has.
In total, "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" is a strange animated film that doesn't justify its own existence. The story is a lazy toned-down version of "Blazing Saddles", the animation is okay though with some huge problems, and the characters are mostly boring and unremarkable. I don't really recommend this one at all and instead recommend watching "Blazing Saddles". That film is a comedy classic and one that you'll have a fun time watching. This film though feels declawe