PAW Patrol: The Movie (2021)
"PAW Patrol: The Movie" stars Iain Armitage, Marsai Martin, Yara Shahidi, Kim Kardashian, Randall Park, Dax Shepard, Tyler Perry, Jimmy Kimmel, and Will Brisbin. Released on August 20, 2021, the film has a young boy and his puppy sidekicks protecting their city from chaos.
The film was directed by Cal Brunker, who is known for directing "Escape from Planet Earth" and "The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature". He also served as a storyboard artist for films like "Horton Hears a Who!", "Despicable Me", "Minions", and "The Secret Life of Pets". It is based on a television series of the same name created by Keith Chapman. We've all grown to be inspired by multiple heroes on duty, whether they're on the big screen or in real life. But there's also another group of heroes that are just as inspirational as the rest. Not to mention adorable. Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. I am talking about a feature-length adaptation of one of Nickelodeon's most popular preschool shows in recent memory. And I thought reviewing a film based on "Dora the Explorer" was the strangest thing I've done. For people who need a fresh reminder, PAW Patrol is a children's series that launched on Nickelodeon in 2013, and it centers on a 10-year-old boy leading a team of search and rescue dogs to protect the community of Adventure Bay. Its simplistic premise and pleasant characters helped transform the show into a worldwide phenomenon, launching an ongoing series of toys and earning various television awards. As of this writing, the show is currently airing its eighth season, with the ninth season already renewed by Nickelodeon. Considering that the show revolves around puppies wearing emergency service outfits, it's no surprise that it's still relevant. I'm not into PAW Patrol that much, mainly because I'm a grown man who prefers adult animation and cartoons for older kids, but I had watched bits and pieces of it a few years ago. Based on what I saw, I thought the show was cute. I wouldn't say that it's one of my favorite shows of all time, but I can understand why many kids liked it so much. In fact, I liked it well enough to check out and review the pups' big-screen debut, much to the dismay of those who are already sick of the show. Was this a successful mission that'll entertain its young fans, or was it something that'll cause people to yelp for help? Let's head down to Adventure Bay and find out.
The story follows Ryder (Brisbin), a young boy who performs heroic duties with his team of rescue puppies known as the PAW Patrol. The team consists of Chase (Armitage) the police dog, Rubble (Keegan Hedley) the construction bulldog, Skye (Lilly Bartlam) the aviator cockapoo, Marshall (Kingsley Marshall) the firefighting Dalmatian, Rocky (Callum Shoniker) the recycling mixed-breed puppy, and Zuma (Shayle Simons) the aquatic rescue Labrador retriever. When their arch-rival, Mayor Humdinger (Ron Pardo), becomes the mayor of Adventure City, Ryder and the pups leave their home in Adventure Bay to face him. With the help of a savvy Dachshund named Liberty (Martin), the PAW Patrol fights to save the people of Adventure City from Humdinger's horrible ideas. If you've been watching the show since its debut, whether it's with your kids or by yourself, you'd already have a clear idea of what to expect from the film. Like its source material, "PAW Patrol: The Movie" is a simplistic and harmless representation of professional search and rescue missions performed by adorable puppies. What made it stand out from its source material was the scope of its story, and the missions they faced were a bit more dangerous, but not in a way that'll frighten its younger viewers. Its plot already had me thinking that it's more suited as a huge multi-day television event on Nickelodeon. It's straightforward, it's child-friendly, and more importantly, it's very, very, very, very cute. However, there's a certain amount of heart and charm in the film's series of innocent scenarios that make it…dare I say it, watchable. While it doesn't match the level of greatness as the other good Nickelodeon Movies I've seen, like "Rugrats in Paris" and "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie", the film works well in being both an introduction to the source material and a solid piece of family-friendly entertainment. What made this film work, in my eyes, was that it understands the target demographic it was aiming for, which is kids who watch PAW Patrol every day. But it didn't stop there. The film also featured elements that'll make their parents howl for joy, such as the humor and messages. Its storytelling was a hit-and-miss due to some silly dialogue and pacing. Still, the film managed to avert itself away from disaster by providing heartfelt character moments and fun kid-friendly action. The film's heart comes from Chase, who is forced to confront his fears during the team's time in Adventure City. His encounter with his past made him question himself and his role as a member of the PAW Patrol. The film evokes the importance of being a hero by showcasing that real-life heroes, such as the firefighters and the police, aren't always fearless. It showed that being a hero can also mean admitting your fears and rising above them. It's a heartwarming moment that may feel a bit preachy at times, but it's represented in a way that both kids and adults can appreciate. Most of the cast from the show reprised their roles as their respective characters, except Chase, Ryder, and Rocky, all of which were replaced by Armitage, Brisbin, and Shoniker, respectively. The main cast did wonders in delivering some solid chemistry between each other and some charming voice work. Iain Armitage from Young Sheldon served as a worthy replacement for Justin Paul Kelly as the voice of Chase, and newcomer Will Brisbin did a nice job voicing Ryder. Ron Pardo is another actor who reprised his role from the PAW Patrol series. His vocal performance as Mayor Humdinger was exactly what I was expected: idiotic and humorously evil. Keegan Hedley was a surprise highlight as the voice of Rubble, in my opinion, largely due to his innocent personality and humor. The film also featured some new characters that were voiced by plenty of big celebrities, ranging from Marsai Martin from Black-ish as Liberty to Jimmy Kimmel as Marty Muckraker. While I would like to see more of Liberty regarding her character development, she served as a fun little addition to the crew thanks to Martin's spunky voice work. Kim Kardashian and Tyler Perry are also in the film as Delores the poodle and Gus the truck driver, respectively, but their roles were minimal. I'm still questioning the studio's decision to add a Kardashian into a kids movie. The film's animation was done by Mikros Image, the same company that worked on another Nickelodeon film, "Sponge on the Run". It's a noticeable step up from the show's animation style in terms of its cinematic appeal and visuals. Sure, the character designs looked like living, breathing versions of the toys they're based on, but regarding its settings, the lighting, and the action, the animation looked surprisingly decent for an ordinary, mid-budget CGI cartoon. I would also give this film credit for how it incorporated its brand of humor. In a world where we have animated family films that rely heavily on pop culture references, modern trends, and popular soundtracks to entertain the children, it's nice to see "PAW Patrol" use innocence and charm as its source of comedy with good results. It did happen to include a couple of jokes that relate to some modern trends, but thankfully, they did very little to hurt the film's brand.
Overall, when it comes to pleasing its target audience, "PAW Patrol: The Movie" managed to get the job done despite some puppy-sized issues. Its story may not appeal to everyone regarding its simplicity and dialogue. However, the film has enough charm and positivity in its voice cast, characters, animation, and heartfelt messages to make this a surprisingly decent step forward for the franchise in terms of feature films. It doesn't provide any tough competition against the likes of "Raya" or even "Mitchells vs. the Machines", but for a movie that doesn't try to be a masterpiece, it's a howling good time. If you or your kids like the show or if you're in a mood for something positive and harmless, this film will surely suit your puppy-loving needs, and remember, whenever you're in trouble, just yelp for help.
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