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(2022) (voices of Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson) (PG)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Computer-Animated Action/Comedy: An underdog canine teams up with a reluctant trainer to save a village of cats.

Like all other cat-only villages, Kakamucho has a samurai to protect it from outsiders. Unfortunately for the resident felines, theirs has just run away in the face of an onslaught of ninjas sent by the villainous Ika Chu (voice of RICKY GERVAIS). Not only does he want to wipe away the village that he views as an eyesore for his palace, but he's also eager one day to replace the supreme leader, Shogun (voice of MEL BROOKS), who's set to visit him in a week.

When Shogun orders Ika Chu to find a replacement samurai for the village, he decides that his inexperienced, samurai wannabe prisoner, Hank (voice of MICHAEL CERA), will be perfect for the job. And that's mainly because Hank's a dog, something that doesn't sit well with the villagers upon his arrival, including young Emiko (voice of KYLIE KUIOKA) who envisions herself as a samurai.

But with the reluctant help and training of washed-up former samurai Jimbo (voice of SAMUEL L. JACKSON), Hank begins to learn the skills for the role, and eventually helps defeat a gargantuan opponent, Sumo (voice of DJIMON HOUNSOU). His newfound over-confidence, however, doesn't sit well with Jimbo, all of which means Ika Chu and his dimwitted assistant, Ohga (voice of GEORGE TAKEI), might just get their wish to rid his land of Kakamucho once and for all.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

Plenty of things in this world and beyond can inspire movies aimed at kids. Most popular today are those based on pre-existing intellectual property such as comic books, games, and novels, but pretty much anything goes in this realm, ranging from age-old classics based on fairy tales through the more contemporary flight of fancy imagination of the folks working at Pixar.

But if I gave you a sheet of paper and told you to list the top 100 things that one could base a kid-friendly movie on -- heck, let's make that 1,000 -- I'd put a healthy wager on you never picking Mel Brooks' R-rated, 1974 western satire "Blazing Saddles" as one of those choices. Yet, here we are, nearly a half-century later and that comedy is the story inspiration for "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank."

Granted, it arrives in PG rather than R-rated form, is computer-animated, and features -- natch -- talking animals as the main characters. But it otherwise follows the original film's story as its blueprint right down to a number of gags, including breaking the fourth wall, the punching a horse in the face bit, and the infamous group farting scene.

Of course, the latter sort of material is no stranger in films where kids are the target audience, and if yours enjoy such audible gastro comedy, then they might be mightily entertained by that and the rest of the film's shenanigans as concocted and lifted from the original by scribes Ed Stone & Nate Hopper (while the original film's five writers -- including Brooks and Richard Pryor -- also get co-writing credits here).

The directing trio of Chris Bailey, Mark Koetsier, and Rob Minkoff certainly keep things moving at a brisk pace, all of which -- coupled with material aimed more at the no longer in school crowd -- means any adults in tow probably won't mind sitting through the 85-minute offering (not including credits, as we're reminded in the dialogue).

As was the case in "BS," a villain (voiced to snarky perfection by Ricky Gervais) wants a town cleared out of his way and when ordered to provide a new samurai to "protect" it, he chooses our titular canine (Michael Cera) who, like his human predecessor, isn't welcomed with open arms, or paws in this case.

But he finds a mentor in Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson doing his usual shtick, minus the barrage of cussing -- briefly addressed somewhat amusingly), a washed-up former samurai who helps train him in the ways of being a do-gooder, followed by the expected falling out between them, bouts of fighting action and so on.

I haven't seen "Saddles" since probably the 1980s, so comparing it to this protege is a moot point at best. I doubt, however, that "Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" will go down in the annals of cinemadom like its predecessor. Okay, but otherwise forgettable long before another half-century passes and unlikely to one day spawn its own imitator, the film rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Posted July 15, 2022

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