two animated cats look up in shock
Courtesy Paramount Pictures via AP

If you think about it, it’s actually pretty hard to make a bad animated movie. Dozens if not hundreds of hands touch the script, the art, the voiceovers, and everything else. Sure, directors and producers are there to steer the ship, but given how collaborative the animation process actually seems to be, it does seem like those types of movies are a lot less likely to be total stinkers. 

All of this is to say—Paws Of Fury: The Legend Of Hank is absolutely fine. If anything, it’s actually a little better than the average kids cartoon fare, in part because it’s loosely based on Blazing Saddles. Mel Brooks is all over the film, too, appearing as the all-powerful but still pretty down-to-earth Shogun and nabbing both executive producing and writing credit, the latter of which he shares with a number of people, including the late Richard Pryor. 

Paws Of Fury isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, per se, but it’s definitely smarter and funnier than the name and premise might suggest. It’s mockingly self-referential from almost the first frame, and it’s clear that the script has gone through a number of rounds of comedic punch-up in an effort to maximize the laughs per second. It’s still a kids film, so there’s a whole bit about an army of bad cats who eat a ton of beans and . . . you know the rest. But there are also pretty good sight gags peppered throughout, too. 

Though most of Paws Of Fury’s animation is pretty standard fare, there are points in the film where it takes chances, like in its flashback scenes, which draw from noir-style comic art, and in its climactic battle, which somehow manages to look almost cinematic in its style. It’s clear that the makers had an aim to make the movie stand out from typical kiddie fare, and they succeed, generally. 

If I have one complaint, it’s that the great Michelle Yeoh is almost criminally underused as the voice of a perfectly average village-dwelling mom. If movies like Everything Everywhere All at Once have taught us anything, it’s that Yeoh’s range and potential are infinite, and slotting her into a role she could have recorded in an afternoon, if that, is just kind of a bummer. PG, 97 min.

Wide release in theaters