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“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” Review

paws of fury: the legend of hank

“Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank” will have you believing anything is paw-sible this summer.

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This is where dog lovers and cat lovers can finally unite.  What better place to head out this summer than a movie theater to cool off and enjoy quirky cats and one very special dog coming together against the odds?  

The Summary

Poor Hank (Micahel Cera) is on a quest to learn the ways of the Samurai but somehow winds up in a town full of cats that hate dogs! They need a hero and Hank might just be the answer if they give him a chance.  What he lacks in skills, he makes up for in bravery if only he can get the guidance he needs from a reluctant teacher (Samuel L. Jackson).  

Ricky Gervais lends his voice to the ruthless villain trying to wipe out the village amid a cast of other familiar voices: Mel Brooks, George Takei, Aasif Mandvi, Gabriel Iglesias, Djimon Hounsou, Michelle Yeoh, Kylie Kuioka, and Cathy Shim. 

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Review Wire Media for Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies.

The Experience

While I don’t typically enjoy some of the behaviors often encountered in the movie theater (seeing someone’s shoe by my head is a bit of a buzzkill), I was able to really enjoy so many of the lessons and heartwarming moments of this movie.  I appreciate the fresh take on bringing dogs and cats together rather than being enemies and as a travel enthusiast, any opportunity to expose the children to cultures and places of the world is a treat.

I’m always a fan of the underdog and there are plenty of other teachable moments inspiring teamwork, friendship, perseverance, and acceptance.  There’s even a moment when you can identify with the understanding that we often think much harsher of ourselves than others might, sometimes even carrying the burden of judgments never voiced.

Some of the humor could be considered pretty crude, but I have yet to teach my kids that butts, poop, and farts are not that funny.  I’ve tried but it’s not working so if your family works themselves into hearty laughter over a room full of farts, then they’ll love those scenes.

The Lessons – Teaching History with Movies

While this is not the first movie I would grab when looking for history movies for kids, there’s just enough substance in this movie to start a cultural conversation about Japan and its history.  If you’ve never done a cultural study with your children, you could spend an entire summer learning together about a country and if you do it just right, they might not ever know they’re learning. 

Teaching history with movies doesn’t always mean that the movie has to be absolutely historically accurate, you can use it to simply springboard exposure and interest in a culture or country. You can add more experiences to explore Japanese culture with Paws of Fury by starting with food.  There’s bound to be a local Japanese restaurant that you can visit and possibly get them to try something new. Use resources like Outschool to take the kids on a virtual trip to Japan and explore ninja training, Nintendo, and neighborhoods.

Use the movie as an amazing opportunity to reinforce historic timelines and re-educate ourselves and family.  While a samurai seems like a familiar concept, the origin may not be as clear.  They typically refer to the warriors of premodern Japan.  Samurai used a range of weapons from bows and arrows to swords, spears, and guns. This movie does have imagery that conveys that range of weapons during some scenes.  The weapons alone might invoke discussions about weaponry, self defense, martial arts, and traditional handicrafts.

Samurai also lived by a code of ethics called bushido which means the way of the warrior.  This code required loyalty to one’s master (teacher), self-discipline, and respect among other ethical behaviors.  These and similar principles are mentioned during Hank’s training.

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While visiting Japan might not be a possibility for everyone, a cultural study of Japan could be just the summer adventure you need.  The topic of castles and moats comes up during the movie which could easily lead to the exploration of Japanese castles and castle towns, even Tokyo evolved from being a castle town.  During Japan’s warring states period (Edo period), castle towns sprung up and a good amount have been preserved. 

The name of the town that Hank goes to is mentioned repeatedly during the movie, Kakamucho.  While this may sound like an interesting place, you won’t find it in Japan but you will find an impressive castle with a similar name, Kumamoto designed by Kato Kiyomasa.  Another great way to encourage cultural learning is with practicing names we’re not commonly exposed to in our own culture.  The castle has a long history and has faced many challenges yet parts of it continue to exist over 400 years later.

A popular historical theme park (Edo Wonderland) in Nikko, showcases the Edo period with live period experiences and amusements including what it’s like to be a ninja, dressing up Edo style, performances and dining on Edo delicacies. 

Overall Kids Movie Review

While I don’t recommend this movie for those under 5, it is rated PG and truly means Parental Guidance.  That rating sometimes seems confusing but I like to think of it as meaning it’s up to you whether it is appropriate for your child based on the trailer, the topic, your child/children, and your lifestyle.  

Children aged 8 – 10 might be the most likely to grasp the bulk of the concepts and still be amused at the same time while parents and teens can certainly get a giggle here and there as well.  As a family, it may be the coin toss movie or the second feature at a drive-in.  

It was properly timed and didn’t feel too long nor did it feel overly offensive. (If you are looking for more G-rated quality, then no, I don’t think this is the movie for you.) Overall, it was a good animated film that our family enjoyed together.  

If you can identify with wanting to improve yourself and striving to get to the best version of you, even when everyone doubts you, then you will see a bit of Hank in yourself.  Quite possibly you’ll even be reminded of a time when doing the most honorable thing has not been the easiest decision.  

It’s those moments in movies like this, where we make real connections to the characters. The struggles of the human experience connect us and are easier to digest when humans are replaced as animals.  It also presents topics of racism, sexism, and stereotypes in a manner that might only receive laughter but should inspire deeper thought and a self check, often using examples that are less alarming for the offending parties to possibly get a glimpse of their own behavior. 

I completely identified with Hank when some of the town “cats” gave him secret support through gifts while hiding behind bushes for fear of what others would think.  The marginalized will automatically see this because they’ve been on the receiving end while the offending party might question why they would do that without realizing they have done it before.  The hope is always that maybe it reaches one person to rethink the roles they play in society and how others are affected by them.

I would give it  B+ but my 9 and 7 year old’s say it’s an A+, especially the high quality fart scene.  I, for one, appreciated the cat/dog humor as any animal lover would. 

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