PAW Patrol: The Movie is adorable, but you knew that going in. I’m happy to report that, aside from a single mention of “poop” from a character voiced by Jimmy Kimmel, there are no bathroom jokes, no attempts at “hip” modern day references and a true sweetness to it. In terms of the animation quality, this is much closer to the soft textures of Illumination than the stylish, textured worlds of a Pixar movie, but it’s also devoid of the obnoxious, shrill antics of the former and has the heart of the latter.
In fact, PAW Patrol: The Movie is about how Chase, the police dog of the six-dog rescue team operation (seven if you count Ryder, the ten-year leader) has a personal crisis. It seems Chase has a mission in Adventure City, where he was abandoned as a pup and discovered by Ryder. The memory haunts Chase, who crumbles at the thought of returning to Adventure City and freezes up during assignments. Only Ryder can break through to him, at a pivotal moment, and assures him not only of his worth but the strength of his character. This is as tough as the movie gets and, while hardly the “dark” moment in the PAW Patrol movie, it’s a welcome moment of real emotion.
Otherwise, the plot involves the evil schemes of a blatantly crooked politician named Mayor Humdinger, who resembles the Monopoly mascot (yes, I know his name: Rich Uncle Pennybags!) and is easily upstaged by his armful of persnickety cats. It makes for toothless satire. What works are the action sequences, which are well assembled and offer some cool visuals (like a floating weather machine, drifting far into the cosmos, during a major storm).
As in the TV series, I like the positivity and lack of cynicism in PAW Patrol and found that quality in the film as well. As far as 2021 event movies go, this one will go under the radar of anyone under the age of 5. However, if you wind up catching it, you’ll find that it not only goes down easy but has admirable qualities, slick animation, some good values, a few mild chuckles and is surprisingly inoffensive and square for a kiddie movie. Seeing it a second time isn’t a priority, especially when Raya and the Last Dragon came out the same year, but when the time comes, I won’t be wincing when I press the PLAY button.
Why would I watch it again? Because this is the first movie I took my five-year-old daughter, Bea, to see in a movie theater and she was dazzled by the experience. Even with mask wearing (when she wasn’t munching popcorn), Bea loved seeing this in a movie theater and she’s been talking about how it ever since. The theater made the experience golden: according to the manager, Paramount Pictures requested the lights stay half on during the showing and there was no trailer before it began, just a few brief PAW Patrol cartoons. Going to a movie rarely felt so comfortable- it was a wild contrast to the time my parents took me to see Annie in a packed theater, full of kids who got on the stage in front of the screen, started to dance and were shooed off stage by a furious usher. Ah, the 80’s.
Around the hour mark, Bea proclaimed, “This movie is so much fun!” Not long afterwards, she asked, “Is this a long movie?” Good question, as it did feel like a long 90 minutes, if only because it was obvious when the second act was starting, and it was clear what had to happen before we got to the big finale. No matter, Bea loved it and I suspect it won’t be long before the film goes into permanent rotation at home.
PAW Patrol: The Movie is better than most toy commercials passing themselves off as movies, it delighted my daughter and I enjoyed myself. That’s not a rave review. However, if you ask a different Wurst, you’ll hear how it was “Awesome, the best time,” so there you go.