"PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie" stars Finn Lee-Epp, Mckenna Grace, Marsai Martin, Ron Pardo, Kim Kardashian, Kristen Bell, Christian Convery, Lil Rel Howery, James Marsden, Serena Williams, and Taraji P. Henson. Released on September 29, 2023, the film has the PAW Patrol pups gaining superpowers from a meteor.
The film was directed by Cal Brunker, who also directed "Escape from Planet Earth" and "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature". It is the sequel to Brunker's 2021 film, "PAW Patrol: The Movie", and it is based on the television series created by Keith Chapman. If there's one thing I learned from watching many superhero movies, it's that anyone can become one: adults, kids, and even pets, specifically dogs. We've seen pets tackle the superhero business in the DC universe with the recent "DC League of Super-Pets" film. Now, everyone's favorite search and rescue pup team is getting the opportunity to save the world: the PAW Patrol. The success of the PAW Patrol's first big screen adventure two years ago painted a brighter future for the child-friendly franchise in theaters, not just on living room televisions and from selling toys. So, it makes sense that Nickelodeon and Spin Master are going down the SpongeBob route: making more theatrical films based on its popular property. That includes the one that serves as another addition to the ever-lasting superhero genre. You know, because we can't get enough of those super-powered beings and their explosive CGI battles. Based on the film's box office performance I've seen so far, it's no surprise that its theatrical path has officially been set in stone, especially since it has already announced a third film for a 2026 release. But before we get ahead of ourselves with the adorable pups, let's see if this sequel is mighty enough to continue the team's successful duty on the big screen.
The story centers on the PAW Patrol, led by Ryder (Lee-Epp), as they continue to perform their search and rescue duties in Adventure City. One day, a meteor containing several mysterious crystals crashes into the city. As the team investigates, the crystals give them superpowers, resulting in them becoming Adventure City's superhero team. However, they find themselves putting their newfound powers and teamwork to the test when their arch-nemesis, Mayor Humdinger (Pardo), escapes prison. Even worse is that Humdinger is joining forces with Victoria Vance (Henson), a meteor expert seeking to use the powerful crystals for nefarious purposes. Ryder must now lead his team of super-powered pups to save Adventure City from the villainous duo.
"PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie" wasn't the first time we see the search and rescue puppies become superheroes. The element was first introduced during the show's fifth season with its television special "Mighty Pups" in 2018. Unsurprisingly, based on my assumption, this sub-theme was as successful as its original search-and-rescue episodes and the other weird ideas the series came up with, including those with a mer-pup. I'm not making that up, but hey, if the kids are enjoying these ideas, there's no reason for me to question them. What's surprising is that the creators took them this long to bring the "Mighty Pups" concept to the big screen, given how popular the superhero genre is nowadays despite its recent blunders. I guess they wanted to wait and see how the first movie turned out before reintroducing it in a future follow-up.
For those who are new to my blog, I didn't get into "PAW Patrol" as much as the kids, mainly because I thought I was way above its target demographic. That is until I watched "PAW Patrol: The Movie" with my mom on Paramount+ in 2021. Long story short, my mother loved it, which makes sense considering her obsession with puppies. As for me, I was genuinely surprised at how harmless and watchable it turned out. Sure, it has a few instances of cheesy dialogue and kid-friendly stakes the show is known for, but it's got enough charm and heart to make a grown adult like me smile. Plus, it offered a well-handled approach to the film's search and rescue representation that's accessible to kids and relatable to adults, especially when it involves Chase's dilemma.
Watching that film and the show helped me understand why "PAW Patrol" is one of the most popular preschool television shows in recent years that won't retire anytime soon. It's fun and harmless but also educational about how a search and rescue team performs their respective duty. It's basically Nickelodeon's next "SpongeBob", but for younger audiences who love puppies. Because of this, I was somehow looking forward to seeing how "The Mighty Movie" lives up to its predecessor. It's another price to pay for being a movie critic. You watch one "PAW Patrol" movie, and suddenly, you're curious enough to see another one. Thankfully, I didn't regret watching the film in the theater with my mom, as "The Mighty Movie" continues to deliver the charm and heart the show is known for, much to my enjoyment. Unfortunately, its by-the-numbers approach to its "Mighty Pups" concept may not be as super as it thought it would.
If you've seen the show, the 2021 film adaptation, or both, you'll quickly know what you'll get in "The Mighty Movie". It's a straightforward, harmless depiction of pups saving people from danger, filled with cheesy puns and child-friendly action. Of course, because of its superhero aspect, it also contains a couple of sequences that may be a bit intense for very young kids, hence the film's PG rating as opposed to its predecessor's G rating. So, parents, keep that in mind before bringing your children. If you enjoyed its predecessor because of those elements, then there's no doubt you'll have a good time watching "The Mighty Movie" by yourself or with your kids. However, it may not offer much else in its basic plot to change the minds of those who aren't into the source material as much as its target audience.
Like its predecessor, "The Mighty Movie" offers a narrative focusing on one of the PAW Patrol members. The 2021 movie focused on Chase and his struggle with PTSD, which caused him to question his role in the team. In "The Mighty Movie", the focus is set on Skye (Grace), who sees herself as the runt of the litter due to her size. Amid the superhero antics, the film showcases Skye's attempt to make a big difference despite being the smallest pup in the group. It showcases that even though someone's small on the outside, their heart is bigger than anyone could imagine. It is an excellent lesson for younger kids to learn despite its deliverance being a bit preachy sometimes. While it isn't without a heartfelt moment or two, the film's narrative has specific elements that are surprisingly derivative of its predecessor, including Skye's flashback. It was trying to recapture lightning in the bottle from the first film regarding the emotion and character development, only to fall a tad short of being heroic. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Skye's storyline due to its heart and Mckenna Grace's superb performance. It's that I thought Chase's dilemma in the 2021 movie was handled a bit better direction-wise.
Along with its average script and dialogue, the film also has a couple of occasions where it didn't commit to some of the rules it made for the crystals. From what I can remember, one crystal gives the wearer a superpower based on their personality. That part is easy to understand. However, the movie wasn't consistent in showcasing the potential of someone possessing more than one crystal. It not only makes "The Mighty Movie" feel less coherent than its predecessor but also makes its imitative superhero formula more challenging to ignore for casual moviegoers. Fortunately, it didn't deteriorate my experience since I know what to expect from a "PAW Patrol" movie.
One of the aspects that helped the film power through some of its flaws was the voice cast. As mentioned before, Mckenna Grace was wonderful as the adorable Skye, further showcasing her talent as a young actress both in live-action and animation. Taraji P. Henson was also delightfully entertaining as the film's antagonist, Victoria Vance, who shares the same problems as Skye's. Whether she's playing a hero or a villain, Henson is another actress who knows how to entertain both kinds of audiences and does it well. Marsai Martin reprised her role as Liberty from the first film and continues to do solid work in making this spunky character a worthy addition to the team. The only downside about Liberty is that her role in "The Mighty Movie" is smaller than in its predecessor, as she was promoted to babysitting duty with the Junior Patrollers for most of the movie's runtime. It also has a slew of entertaining celebrity guest stars that many of us might be familiar with, including Lil Rel Howery (Sam Stringer), Chris Rock, Serena Williams (Yoga Yvette), and Kim Kardashian, who reprised her role as Delores in only one scene.
Another element I enjoyed was the animation. Like its predecessor, "The Mighty Movie" is a more vibrant and cinematic version of the television show. Of course, that meant the animators had more freedom to display more of its fluidity and scope that they couldn't do on the small screen. That includes some of the action scenes involving the pups performing search and rescue duties and confronting Victoria and Humdinger. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't intend to outdo the other game-changing animated films like "Spider-Verse" or the recent "Ninja Turtles" movie, and that's okay. It's cheap to make with a budget of $30 million, but it doesn't "look" cheap like most subpar, low-quality animated movies. It's colorful and pleasing regarding its visuals and settings, and it helps make the kid-friendly action look fun to watch despite its low-stakes narrative.
Overall, "PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie" may not be as mighty as I hoped, but it's heroic enough to satisfy its younger target audience with its charm and heartfelt message. Regarding its middling story and dialogue, the film doesn't do anything super to reinvigorate the genre or even the animation industry. It's just a harmless, fundamental, and adorable 90-minute toy commercial whose goal is to entertain the kids and nothing else, which is basically what "PAW Patrol" has been accomplishing since its debut. Like its predecessor, "The Mighty Movie" mostly achieved that goal despite being a tiny downgrade from the first film. The film's voice cast, delightful charm, entertaining characters, heartwarming message, and solid animation are the powers it needs to please those searching for family-friendly fun amid a slew of adult-rated content. However, everyone else who didn't like the source material would easily be turned off by its corny dialogue, average plot, and incoherent elements. It would be interesting to see if the upcoming third film would continue the trend of using elements from the show's sub-themes like "The Mighty Movie". Maybe we could see the pups go on an undersea adventure next? Only time will tell as we wait for its release.