'Paw Patrol: The Movie' Review: A Kind and Uplifting Adventure for Fans of the Pups


Four Star Rating: **½ 
Starring: Iain Armitage, Marsai Martin, Ron Pardo, Yara Shahidi, Kim Kardashian, Randall Park, Dax Shephard, Tyler Perry, Jimmy Kimmel, Will Brisbin
Director: Cal Brunker
Screenplay: Billy Frolick, Cal Brunker, Bob Barten
Based on: Paw Patrol TV series created by Keith Chapman
Producers: Jennifer Dodge
Music by: John Murphy
Cinematographer: Heitor Pereira
Editor: Ed Fuller
Production Company: Spin Master Entertainment, Mikros Image, Nickelodeon Movies
Distributed by: Elevation Studios (Canada)/ Paramount Pictures 
Genre: Animation, Kid & Family, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: G
Release Date: August 9, 2021 (UK/Ireland)/ August 20, 2021 (North America)
Run Time: 86 minutes

As a kid, I always got excited when one of my favourite cartoon series was given a big feature adaptation for the big screen. I enjoyed TV, but I knew something was really an event if it got released to theatres.  Even as a kid, it seemed like the people making these movie versions barely watched the shows they were adapting. 

The big screen versions of beloved shows were almost always disappointments. We ended up with The Smurfs and the Magic Flute where none of the Smurfs had voices I recognized and many of the memorable characters from the show were on vacation. The Care Bears Movie was more about a young sorcerer's apprentice getting entranced by an evil possessed book than stuff that wouldn't give young kids nightmares. It got even worse when there were live-action adaptations with Master of the Universe abandoning Eternia for most of the movie, filling it with a bunch of characters I'd never seen on the show and having the known characters act or look nothing like they had previously.

One of the biggest praises that I can say about Paw Patrol: The Movie is that it delivers exactly what its fanbase would expect while still feeling like a grand movie event that is a bigger deal than the TV show or the straight-to-video movies. The best upgrade is the animation with colours that pop and give much more detail to each of the characters and locations compared to the series. It was such an upgrade that after seeing the trailer, Everett was convinced it was live-action, despite me constantly telling him that it was still animated but just a much better quality, since they had a big movie budget now.

When I took both Danika and Everett to see this feature, he did finally concede that it can't be live-action because little kids wouldn't like that, but since it was a movie, they wanted to make it almost look like it was. I still wasn't quite seeing the images that resembled real-life, but I've not a nine year old boy anymore.

On top of the added detail to the characters, the movie brings a lot of life to the locations and provides a collection of figures and actions in the background. There is a lot more attention to detail than you'd get on the show, and the screen is filled with vibrant colours and activities. It also allows for the characters to perform more actions and increase some of the visual gags. A lot of attention was put into the visual aspect of the productions.

As someone who has seen countless adaptations of famous kid shows, this one takes the time to maintain the personalities and behaviour that the kids will be expecting from each character. While the mission now needs to stretch out over ninety minutes rather than twenty-two, it still embodies the type of the challenges and obstacle expected from the show. The spirit is here, and so, there was a lot of care to make sure that the little fans got what they wanted and expected just at a bigger scale.

This also means that if you're not a fan of Paw Patrol then this likely won't be the movie to win you over. It isn't really trying to broaden its audience, though considering every kid I know has at some point adored the series, it has broad reach. While most Pixar and Disney animated features craft complex and deep stories that appeal to adults even without kids, this movie is aimed at the kids and being enjoyable enough for parents to survive the run time. 

It still mostly worked for me, but I confess I had a kid on either side of me and they were completely immersed into the adventure. They were long-time fans of this series (though Everett has mostly stopped watching it, so this was more of a nostalgia trip for him), so they were invested in the characters. They cheered and gasped and laughed and jumped out of their seats, so that was enough for this dad to feed off their energy and have fun.

This time around Ryder (voiced by Will Brisbin) and his beloved crew of super-vehicle driving pups get a distress call from super-fan pup named Liberty (voiced by Marsai Martin) who lives in Adventure City. People aware of the show know that the crew live in Adventure Bay where they do most of the rescuing, but for the big theatrical movie, you got to upgrade that to a city. It seems Mayor Humdinger (voiced by Ron Pardo) has moved away from running Foggy Bottom (yes, I've seen a few episodes) and through some devious means got himself elected to this bigger city. The mayor is a childish and selfish con-artist who has no interest in the well-being of the citizens, but only to agendas that benefit him and is prone to temper tantrums when things don't go his way. It is good thing this is fiction, and we'd never have such villains in real-world politics.

It just so happens the Paw Patrol has a new headquarters in the city where they can monitor the evil mayor. The movie has Humdinger come up with a series of schemes such as having far too many fireworks for his celebration to the point it causes harm and damage to the city and citizens, and also completely ignore the warnings of his scientific advisors when using the Cloud Catcher drone not for scientific purpose but to ensure clear days. Humdinger continues to create chaos and the Paw Patrol come to save the day.

There also is an emotionally complex storyline that links the adventures, and creates a character arc for one of the pups, Chase (Iain Armitage). We learn that Ryder rescued Chase when he was a young pup from Adventure City where he had been abandoned. Chase has trauma connected with the city and is overwhelmed when he returns. He loses some of his confidence and doesn't believe he can help the team. 

For a movie focused on entertaining kids, it should be commended for exploring the idea of how events in our life can haunt us, and how it can affect our confidence and self-worth. The movie confronts how fear can control us, and how we need overcome it through the support of loved ones and trusting in our abilities The movie tries to stay light, but it still allows kids to know that even their heroes can have those moments of doubt and pain.

The idea of support is furthered by each member having their moment to shine. The Paw Patrol team works because each pup has their own special skill, and they work together to complete a task. Each kid has their favourite pup, and so, they will be happy to see each one has a scene or two where they get to be the hero and have the spotlight. My daughter is a huge fan of Skye (voiced by Lily Bartlam) as she owns a stuffy, costume and toy with vehicle, so she let out a loud cheer when Skye got her moment to help save the day.  

The movie has a few moments that were designed to be winks at adults. We find out Ryder has been able to afford all the gadgets due to official Paw Patrol merchandise, which most parents are well aware is a very real thing. For the most part, the jokes are aimed at the target audience, but it is done with so much cheer and good-spirit that doesn't get too tiresome.

In the end, if you like the Paw Patrol series then you will like this. It is more a pure kids movie that parents can enjoy enough to get through the 90 minutes. It has an inspiring message and tries to add value through its entertainment. The biggest success is properly adapting the thing that kids love, which oddly enough, most previous movies failed. My kids walked away thinking they saw one of the best movies of the year, and as a parent, that is enough.