Review by Adam Donato
With Disney doing their darndest to monopolize the industry, the last month has shown plenty of meat on the bone for other studios to capitalize upon. Minions: The Rise of Gru made comparable box office returns in its opening weekend to that of Lightyear's entire run. One might wonder why a smaller studio would release Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank just two weeks after Minions mania. Not to mention Thor: Love and Thunder will undoubtedly dominate the box office in its second weekend, but critics complained about the humor being too focused on the younger crowd. Will Paws of Fury get the word of mouth necessary to make a box office dent in the waning hours of the summer movie season?
While Minions is one of the non-Disney franchises that has found a way to translate to mainstream audiences and not just children, Pixar was known to have a reputation for appealing to adults as well as children. On the other hand, Paws of Fury looked so exclusively for children that theaters would have to hand out neck pillows to adults so they could at least get a good nap in. Most would be surprised to hear that one of the leading creative forces behind the movie is comedy legend Mel Brooks himself. This became clear after watching as this movie reads as the children's version of Blazing Saddles. The few parents who make that connection might justify the experience of viewing it in theaters.
Surprisingly, this is not the worst movie of the year. It's actually quite enjoyable. Not to overhype the film, as it's decent at best, but for cinephiles who dread looking at the poster standee of the movie, it's not bad. The humor is the best aspect of the movie, as it almost feels fresh in a sea of Disney mediocrity and Minion babbling. A collection of self-aware jokes feels right out of a classic Mel Brooks comedy. With expectations as context, it wouldn't be surprising to hear some viewers find this movie funnier than the cringe-inducing Thor: Love and Thunder. Somehow, Paws of Fury is the funniest theatrically released animated movie of the year.
The animation probably drew most audiences away as it looks cheap and uninspired. There's nothing to be desired visually from this movie in any way. The voice performances, on the other hand, are surprisingly solid. Samuel L. Jackson is always a welcome sound to hear, but the standouts here are certainly Michael Cera and Ricky Gervais. Not that they did anything exceptionally well, they just haven't been on the big screen limelight in a while, and it was nice to get some of their personal comedic flavors.
Parents will be more attracted to the name-brand recognition of animated blockbusters like Lightyear, Minions, and DC League of Super Pets. Still, if their child drags them to Paws of Fury, they won't be too disappointed. To the cinephiles who watch everything that comes out in theaters, it's the last priority, but the creative team behind it makes it worth the watch. Mel Brooks fans specifically will have a hoot hearing his voice and seeing his comedic style still prevailing to this day.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank hits theaters on July 15.