PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE

★★★

THE PUPS' FIRST THEATRICAL MISSION IS BARKING WITH JOY

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris dos Santos
21st August 2021

'PAW Patrol' is a billion-dollar franchise - it debuted in 2013, and now 8 seasons and 189 episodes later, Ryder and his pups are finally leaping into feature film territory.

When the 'PAW Patrols' arch-rival Mayor Humdinger (Ron Pardo, 'Hairspray') becomes the mayor of Adventure City, it isn't long before Ryder (Will Brisbin) and his famous pups Chase (Iain Armitage, TV's 'Young Sheldon', 'Scoob!'), Rubble (Keegan Hedley), Skye (Lilly Bartlam), Marshall (Kingsley Marshall), Rocky (Callum Shoniker, 'On The Basis of Sex', 'Polar') and Zuma (Shayle Simons, TV's 'The Handmaid's Tale') are called to save the city from his havoc. But going back to Adventure City is a challenge for Chase, as it's where he was abandoned as a pup. A new pup also joins the crew, Liberty (Marsai Martin, 'Little', 'Spirit Untamed'), who aspires to be a part of the PAW Patrol.

I believe this is more common in Australia, but over the last couple of years, Nickelodeon has been releasing special extended episodes of 'PAW Patrol' in cinemas. They usually run about 40 minutes and are marketed as a kind of "kids' first cinema experience", but they are just TV movies. The 2021 film is the first time the pups have been given the full theatrical treatment, with Paramount Pictures making the film as opposed to Nickelodeon's television division.

SWITCH: 'PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE' TRAILER

Something that has happened with kids' films in the last decade is that they have moved away from being films purely for children. From the latest offerings from DreamWorks to Disney and Illumination, mass appeal seems to be the objective over creating something for younger viewers. One of the greatest celebrations of 'PAW Patrol: The Movie' is that it's truly for kids. Having said that, it doesn't alienate the adults, and while it's not something I'd recommend to watch if you weren't seeing it with kids, it's not unwatchable for older viewers. It's the perfect movie to watch with the family, neither so bland nor so slow that adults will get bored, and it's easy for its intended audience to follow. It's a kids' movie in its purest form, and I can see it being a staple for a lot of family's movie nights.

I will say I only have the most basic knowledge of these pups, and that's only because I work at a cinema where we screen those aforementioned "extended episodes" of the show. If you know nothing, the film spends no time catching you up. This outing is made for kids who religiously watch the show and parents who have "Chase is on the case" drilled into their brains.

There are many childrens' franchises that are pandering, but one of the reasons 'PAW Patrol' has such staying power (besides how frickin' cute the dogs are) is the way it teaches lessons to children. The messages about teamwork and learning about others' differences are powerful, and the film does a good job of instilling this in the younger generation.

Since the film is crafted by Paramount Pictures, there is a quality step-up. 'PAW Patrol' the series is actually pretty nicely animated as far as CGI animations aimed at preschooler go, but the movie takes the series' cute designs and amps them up. The pups' fur is so nicely textured, you just want to reach out and pet them. The action sequences - which there is a surprisingly large amount of - are also beautifully animated, with nice use of slow motion and rain that pushes it ahead of its television counterpart. I also found the toylike design and plastic shine of a lot of the dogs' vehicles very endearing.

One of the greatest celebrations of 'PAW Patrol: The Movie' is that it's truly for kids. Having said that, it doesn't alienate the adults.

To reem-bark on my earlier note, the film is for those who have seen the show, and the one negative that brings is for the other pups - Rubble, Skye, Marshall, and most of all Rocky and Zuma, who I don't even think had lines - are servery sidelined. Ryder, Chase and new pup Liberty take centre stage, which was a little disappointing as I did want to learn a little more about all of the characters. This also affects the film's main villain, who - after reading up about the show - is actually one of the series' main antagonists, which is never really brought up in the film.

Leaping to the big screen means a bigger budget - and you need look no further than the voice cast: Yara Shahidi ('The Sun is Also a Star'), Randall Park ('Ant-Man and the Wasp'), Dax Shepard ('CHIPS'), Tyler Perry ('Gone Girl'), Jimmy Kimmel ('The Boss Baby') and in her theatrical voice-acting debut, Mrs < href="/cast/Kim-Kardashian">Kim Kardashian West ('Ocean's 8'). Unlike other animated films where the voice acting often feels like a cash grab, you tell most of these celebrities have kids who are big fans of the pups and they are having a blast being a part of their kids' favourite show. Even Kim fits in naturally with her character, and she surprisingly does a really good job.

'PAW Patrol: The Movie' is a surprising success, and while it's clearly made for those who have seen the show, that's not to deny it's an absolute delight. It's charming, adorable and most excitingly, a return to form for a pure kids' film.

At one point, they play the absolute bop by Fifth Harmony 'That's My Girl', and I squealed in delight. That was the moment I knew it was a true masterpiece.

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