There’s no denying that the world’s children are once again Minions-mania’s graspwith Minions: The Rise of Gru has ranked among the highest global sales of the year. Compared to this global hit, or to the expensive productions often offered by Disney and Pixar, the new Nickelodeon-branded animated film Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank looks like a leftover live video from 2005, like an unbranded mix of Zootopia and Kung Fu Panda. It was amazing to see it shown in the cinema. However, this stupid, cheap cartoon offers something that this summer’s other home animation offerings have largely avoided: a series of practical jokes.
It is not The Rise of Gru has a loftier goal than making its target audience laugh. But its success shows that Illumination, its parent studio, has managed to shift expectations about what constitutes humor in a children’s movie. On its surface, The Rise of Gru looks like an heir to anarchy inspired by Old Looney Tunesand it has a few moments reach the heights. But for the most part, the Illumination brand of comedy involves mixing silly acts together, sarcastic lines that comment on the action without making a real joke, and goofy poses. Why do Minions learn kung fu at a time The Rise of Gru? It’s for that reason that a lot of cartoons ending with dance parties: Because kids love it when the cartoon characters roll out familiar moves.
There’s nothing wrong with occupying kids for 90 minutes. However, there is something welcoming and soothing on the way Paws of Fury link together word games, visual tricks, monograms, and self-referential spoofs. Even if some of them – many, even! – causing groans in adults, the sheer volume of the jokes is practically dramatic, especially during the opening and closing sequences of the movie. The middle is admittedly thin.
But even so, at least the film has a more viable plot than the Minions movies have managed. In an old Japanese/Western land populated mostly by cats, the nefarious cat Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) seeks to destroy the local village from the inside by sending the samurai who wants Hank (Michael Cera) ) as their protector. Ika Chu thinks that the villagers will not accept Hank because he is a dog. Undeterred by the town’s prejudices and his own inexperience, Hank seeks the aid of his reluctant mentor Jimbo (Samuel L.Jackson) to help him save the town from bandits. gun hire, and beat Ika Chu to boot.
That plot will sound familiar to fans of classic comedies, because it’s completely free of the 1974 Mel Brooks Western spoof. Yen is burning. As one Brooks character might happily point out in a meta moment, Paws of Fury come by plot legally: Original Yen is burning writers Brooks, Richard Pryor, Andrew Bergman, Alan Uger, and Norman Steinberg all have screenplay credit on Paws of Furybecause it was originally conceived as an animated remake Is called Fiery Samurai. The title has been changed, but the spirit of Brooks remains.
Yes, that is the spirit of the late Brooks. Think of the moment of 1993 Robin Hood: The Man in the Pantyhose when Dave Chappelle’s character, Ahchoo, was appointed sheriff. “A black sheriff?!” one character gasps. “Why not?” Ahchoo replied. “It works in Yen is burning! “Lots of jokes in Paws of Fury at that approximation, minus the mention of race. Cat mockery of dogs is coded as xenophobic, played as an allegory of an immigrant’s experience, rather than a specific form of American racism. It’s neither particularly subtle nor particularly poignant, and it becomes more somber through the context that the Japanese (perhaps inadvertently) add a racial wrinkle back into an already established film. carefully cut out the boldest element of its predecessor.
The transition from cowboy to samurai also made Paws of Fury It’s less of a genre parody, because both Brooks and the young filmmakers who actually made this film seem particularly interested in the dynamics of a samurai film. This is a multi-purpose spoof, with specific nods to older, mostly unrelated American films like West story and Star Wars. Make no mistake: This is no substitute for Yen is burning. Even older kids will be more interested in Brooks’ Cosmic balla 1987 Star Wars spoof that, while humorous, is similarly broad in scope and not particularly well-versed in the genre in which it is taking place.
However, there is value in a silly children’s cartoon that cares enough to string a bunch of jokes together. So many big studio cartoons just design busy, noisy settings, with ridiculous antics blown up to blockbuster scale. But in Paws of Fury, most jokes feel like naughty jokes, training kids’ ears for comedy rather than numbing them to grassroots spectacle. There are a lot of ridiculous cat word games. There’s some silly, silly dialogue. (When one character listed “cars and curiosity” as prominent cat killers, another character asked, “What is a car?” Causing him to inevitably scold for his curiosity. him.) And the characters constantly mention how the movie needs to run “85 minutes, not including the ending credits. “
Brooks himself shares this wisdom, in his small role of, uh, General. Does it feel bad to let him play a Japanese character? Almost certainly. The animation is as polished and professional as the technique shown in Light year? Not even close. The best it can do is look less disgusting than it does in the messy cut trailers. Under normal circumstances, there would be plenty of reasons to forgo such a fascinating entertainment as Paws of Fury. But this summer, when the movies are geared towards kids it feels like the franchises are looking for an emotional adult story (as with Pixar Light year) or manga that are rarely combined (as with The Rise of Gru), the simplicity of the plot plus the jokes of Foot starting to feel downright adorable.
Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank Currently showing in theaters.