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Review: PAW Patrol: The Movie

August 20, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

When I say that PAW Patrol: The Movie, a feature length spinoff of the popular Canadian children’s television show, is surprisingly pretty good, I feel like I should clarify that statement by adding “for a PAW Patrol movie.”

I do not say this to throw any shade on the film itself, which is surprisingly pretty good. I more say it as a reassurance to the parents out there who are already sick of having the show on in the background and are probably dreading being dragged to the film by their kids. And I imagine that the many children who do love the show will be very pleased by this big screen adventure.

I don’t have kids, and have admittedly never watched a full episode of the show. But the movie works on its own terms as a simple and often charming animated adventure that features plenty of action and some good messages for kids about working together, overcoming fear, and standing up to corrupt politicians.

The PAW Patrol is, of course, a team of six plucky puppies named Chase (Iain Armitage), Skye (Lilly Bartlam), Marshall (Kingsley Marshall), Rubble (Keegan Hedley), Rocky (Callum Shoniker) and Zuma (Shayle Simons), who are led by a tech-savvy human kid named Ryder (Will Brisbin). They are outfitted with high-tech “pup packs” featuring grappling hooks and other gadgets that allow them to assist with a variety of emergencies, like rescuing the panicked driver (Tyler Perry) from a maple syrup truck dangling over a bridge in the film’s opening sequence.

The plot finds the pups being called to Adventure City to stop a series of disasters caused by the city’s inept, newly elected Mayor Humdinger (Ron Pardo). Flanked by his henchmen Ruben (Dax Shepard) and Butch (Randall Park), Humdinger is a bumbling, grandiose politician and avowed cat person who is waging war against public spending and the PAW Patrol. He nearly burns down the city with an out of control fireworks display that he stages to celebrate himself, and his idea of investing in transit is to turn the subway into a loop-de-loop rollercoaster that nearly derails, setting the stage for two of the big set-pieces when the pups must step in to save the city.

They are assisted in their mission by a wiener dog named Liberty (Marsai Martin), who fancies herself an honorary member of the PAW Patrol and dreams of being invited to join the group. From here, things play out pretty much exactly as you expect they will. The story itself is pretty simplistic, and the film does drag slightly even at a scant 85 minutes including credits. But, as I mentioned earlier, PAW Patrol: The Movie is surprisingly pretty good for what it is.

The film is a co-production between Nickelodeon, Paramount Animation, and Toronto’s own Spin Master Entertainment, the original creators of the show and popular action figures. It boasts polished visuals along with some nicely animated set-pieces, including a visually pleasing slow motion hero moment for Chase set amidst glistening raindrops. There are also some nicely handled narrative beats about Chase overcoming his trauma of returning to the city where he was abandoned as a young pup, which is probably the strongest and most heartfelt storyline.

Yes, older viewers might find their attention waning at times, but the film is rarely if ever grating, and kids who love the show are gonna eat it up. While the narrative itself lacks the sophistication of Disney or Pixar, and there are certainly elements of the characters and plot that could have been developed further, PAW Patrol: The Movie is a better than expected and well done animated adventure that holds broad appeal for family audiences.

PAW Patrol: The Movie is now playing in theatres. It’s being distributed in Canada by Elevation Pictures.

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