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‘Paws of Fury’ full of jokes but missing comedic punch

Movies

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” is a fusion of the iconic parody “Blazing Saddles” and classic martial arts films. It includes all the requisite training montages, early failures and punch-and-kick action that a martial arts movie needs. But it forgets one very important element — parodies are supposed to be funny and “Paws of Fury” is only mildly amusing.

This movie focuses on Hank (Michael Cera), a dog hoping to become a samurai after experiencing growing up in a rough neighborhood. His wish is granted by Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais), who sends him to protect a village he secretly wants to wipe out.

Hank rapidly figures out he’s in over his head and selects Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson) to train him in the ways of the samurai. Under the begrudging tutelage of Jimbo, Hank struggles to learn the lessons he needs to become an adequate samurai. Will he figure it out before bandits run all the townspeople out of town?

I’m not the biggest fan of family animated films, but based on the trailer, I was really excited for “Paws.” It looked really funny, with great performances from Jackson and Gervais. The performances are there, in spite of some pretty poorly-written dialogue.

But the laughs just aren’t.

It’s not for lack of effort. “Paws” rains down jokes on you like a summer cloudburst. Physical humor, pop culture references, witty dialogue. This movie tries it all and it’s mildly amusing. I chuckled occasionally. But it never reaches laugh-out-loud funny.

With effective humor off the table, the remaining way for “Paws” to win you over is with beautiful, eye-popping animation. But this movie looks kind of ugly. The compositions rarely give you anything interesting to look at and the color palette is rather unpleasant.

I’m honestly not sure how “Paws” fails so badly because turning “Blazing Saddles” into martial arts comedy is actually a great idea. The directorial team includes Rob Minkoff, who worked on “The Lion King” and “Stuart Little.” Was there studio interference? Conflicting creative visions? Locusts? I’m really not sure why this movie turned out to be such a disappointment.

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” gets points for some good voice work. It’s also brave enough to tackle the idea of not hating others simply because they’re different than you. If the jokes were more consistently funny, “Paws” might have been a real winner. As it is, this movie had one job and it didn’t even get that right.

2 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.

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