Where I Watched It: Paramount Plus
English Audio Description?: Yes
This was a film I had no idea was even in the pipeline. Then, when it suddenly was released, theatrically, I started seeing the reviews. Some critics wondered why this wasn’t sent straight to Paramount Plus, but most understand that a theatrical run can elevate a product like this and keep it from feeling like a third rate film no one ever needed.
And the truth is, we didn’t need this film. But, all things considered, it could have been much worse. Aside from the god awful title, this animated offering is actually Blazing Saddles for kids. Don’t believe me? Both Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor are credited among the 6 screenwriters on this project. And unless you think before he died, Richard Pryor sat down and wrote this with the hopes that one day a studio would make it, you’re probably guessing that it is basically Blazing Saddles for kids.
The loose plot involves a Shogun, an untrained samurai, his mentor, a young girl, and oh yeah, they’re mostly all cats. This is a world of cats, kind of like how Blazing Saddles was a ton of white people, they make this distinction by having this world of cats hate dogs, and a no dogs allowed policy. There are a lot of obvious jokes made here that are just nods to overt racism.
Don’t worry, this film really seems aimed at a kids demographic. It’s almost like they had a film, and then they showed the script to Mel brooks who saw the potential and punched up the script. Then they liked it so much, they added him to the voice cast.
Lost in the few jokes that land is a rather run of the mill story that kids can follow, full of things adults normally wouldn’t care about. i honestly was more concerned that I was being tricked into watching a Paw Patrol film.
The voice cast runs deep, but other than Brooks, Michael Cera is technically the lead, though his Hank is by far the least interesting character in this film. Ricky Gervais plays this menacing cat role in a way that reminded me so much of the guinea pig in The Bad Guys. I’d say the stand out here is Samuel L Jackson as the mentor samurai, clever casting as he once voiced afro Samurai, but he’s really just playing Sam Jackson.
I don’t grade everything as if a film like this can stand up next to something like Goodfellas. I instead think of what it’s trying to accomplish, aimed at kids, but clearly trying to pacify adults. For the most part, I think it does enough of both to not be a total waste of time. It’s not the most interesting animated film this year, and I can think of better ways to spend time with your kids, but if you’re a huge Blazing Saddles fan, maybe you can share this with your kids.
Honestly, I was going to bump up the grade a bit anyway just for the whole Mel Brooks angle. Brooks is absolutely a GOAT, no questions asked.
While Paramount Plus always tries to push me into the next film so i can’t watch credits and find out who the narrator is, I will say this has excellent audio description. The film really does focus on a lot of descriptive visual elements, and the writers on this took a great deal of care in making sure that the blind audience gets the many sight gags left in this film, likely by Brooks. Lesser narration could ahve hurt this film.
It’s a family film. It’s not one of those animated movies like some Pixar films that are so good you can go without kids. This is very much aimed at kids, but took the time to try and pay homage in a way to make it less painful for adults.
Final Grade: B-