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Paws of Fury is Dog-Gone Confusing

by J Nagle

A year ago today, we briefly reported on the film Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank in our July release of Weekend Box Office. It stuck out like a sore thumb in some theaters’ previews, as it’s rare to see a film under the Nickelodeon Movies banner release in theaters not based on a pre-existing property in 2023. In this sense, the film felt a bit out of place, like something that would have released years ago.

Well, this technically is the case; Paws of Fury was first greenlit in 2010 under the title Blazing Samurai and faced numerous production issues and shifts that caused its seeming development hell. It seems like something that would have been better off a Paramount+ exclusive at this point, but it probably still released in theaters due to contractual obligations or something like that. The premise is also bizarre—an animated soft remake of Blazing Saddles made for kids where every character is a common house pet?

On the one-year anniversary of its release, we watched through the film to see what exactly its deal was. Here are our findings.

Paws of Fury feels like, ironically, a feature-length version of one of those film recap/parody cartoons across YouTube. In its attempts to distance itself enough from Blazing Saddles to justify its existence and loosely maintain its plot beats, it just ends up feeling like a lackluster replica that makes the viewer want to watch Blazing Saddles instead. Its attempts to tackle racial allegory fall flat, as it feels like the idea’s abandoned for the majority of the movie, something that people again feel Blazing Saddles handled much better.

The animation feels a tad expressive, in the sense that it feels like the bare minimum compared to other animated releases that came out before and later in the same year. Considering the lengthy parade of vanity cards the film opens with, it really felt like it should have been something more. The best animation in the entire film, in my opinion, was found in the opening of the film. This animation is 2D rather than the 3D the rest of the film uses, and its flashiness is honestly the most entertaining visual the film has to offer. Again, disappointing given it’s only used for the intro.

In spite of its mixed public reception before release, small marketing budget, and little fanfare upon release, Paws of Fury came surprisingly close to breaking even at the box office last year, grossing $42.5 million on a budget of $45 million. While most older audiences weren’t impressed by the film, there is at least a decent enough low-budget kids movie to be found here. There’s definitely worse out there, and it would be pretty funny to see some grown-up kid admitting that this was their first exposure to Samuel L. Jackson’s work in cinema.

Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank is now streaming on Paramount+.