In 1974 Mel Brooks co-wrote and directed the seminal comedy movie Blazing Saddles. Set in the times of the Western, the movie sees a corrupt politician, Harvey Korman, appoint a black sheriff, Cleavon Little, in an attempt to ruin the town.
However, when the sheriff meets his prisoner Jim (Gene Wilder), and later defeats the undefeatable giant Mongo (Alex Karras), he manages to get the town on his side and promptly defeats the later onslaught.
In Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank, Brooks returns as producer and voice of The Shogun. Meanwhile writers Ed Stone (“Happy, Texas”) and Nate Hopper have taken the original Blazing Saddles script, co-written by Norman Steinberg, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor and Alan Uger, and turned it into an animated comedy for all the family.
This time round a dog, Hank, Michael Cera (“Arrested Development (TV)”, “Superbad”), is a wannabe samurai and finds himself in cat-land where he’s appointed town samurai by Ika Chu, Ricky Gervais (“After Life (TV)”, “David Brent: Life on the Road”), an evil landlord who wants to remove the town in order to enlarge his palace.
Naturally, Hank isn’t a samurai but finds Jimbo, Samuel L. Jackson (“The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (TV)”, “The Banker”), in his jail. Jimbo is a former samurai, now drunk on catnip, who eventually agrees to teach Hank the ways of the samurai.
The undefeatable giant in this instance is a giant cat named Sumo, Djimon Hounsou (“The King’s Man”, “A Quiet Place Part II”), who Hank must face in his first battle. There’s also Ohga, George Takei (“Marvel’s Hit-Monkey (TV)”, “Love Monster (TV)”), Ika Chu’s right-hand man and Emiko, Kylie Kuioka (“Better Nate Than Ever”, “Harom (Short)”), a tiny cat, maybe kitten, who has samurai abilities but everyone overlooks.
They say copying is the ultimate form of flattery and, if that’s true, then Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank should make Mel Brooks and co feel very, very flattered. In some instances it’s a shot-for-shot remake, though obviously in animation format, with cats and a dog.
We get the “the sheriff’s a…” scene, though obviously without the n-word as well as a version of the bar-piano Mongo scene, amongst others. However, don’t think this is just simply Blazing Saddles rebranded, the gang also take-off Jurassic Park and House Of Flying Daggers to name but two.
The big question, for those of us that actually remember Blazing Saddles originally and hold it in some regard, is are we ok with that? Can we accept a family-friendly, animated version of the movie?
I’ve given it some thought and I think, on balance, I am ok with it. I think there will be plenty of people who haven’t seen Blazing Saddles, particularly amongst the younger generation with which Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank is aimed, and so to introduce them to this kind of humour is a good thing.
Obviously to remake Blazing Saddles in these times is unlikely to happen. Whilst a seminal and, at times, surreal movie, it’s ‘of a time’ and I imagine it would be near impossible to find a studio to bankroll any remake and changing it too much would upset those who hold it in such high-regard.
With that in mind, perhaps Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank is fine. It’s at times laugh out loud funny, it has a nice, fluffy message about acceptance of each other and some great voice-actors, except for perhaps Gervais who feels miscast as the villain of the piece.
22nd July 2022
THE QUICK SELL
Hank, a loveable dog with a head full of dreams about becoming a samurai, sets off in search of his destiny.
CAST & CREW
Alan Uger, Andrew Bergman, Chris Bailey, Djimon Hounsou, Ed Stone, George Takei, Kylie Kuioka, Mark Koetsier, Mel Brooks, Michael Cera, Michelle Yeoh, Nate Hopper, Norman Steinberg, Richard Pryor, Ricky Gervais, Rob Minkoff, Samuel L. Jackson