Hearing positive reviews of the new PAW PATROL really had me curious. I have never seen the Canadian-based TV show on which it’s based, but I DID see some other movies this summer and over-heard excited kids when this trailer played before the feature started. So I know there was interest and there was a pretty healthy marketing campaign behind it.
What surprised me was that PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE feels like it’s made BY kids, for kids and families. It’s as if every line of dialogue, action scene and character is at this heightened reality, just at a point of delirium that you can’t help but be amused by it. It knows exactly what it is and it isn’t afraid to work on its own confidence. And I can totally respect that.
It features a rag-tag team of puppies who want nothing more than to help their fellow humans in Adventure Bay. When the action moves to the city, we immediately get the imagination of the filmmakers who drop us into a city where dogs can politely but firmly remind its citizens not to leave trash on the train, or react when Mayor Humdinger wants to take over the city with all of his cats. The Paw Patrol, along with newly added member Liberty (an adorable stray dachshund) are up to the task!
In this world, which I think is one of the biggest draw for kids, is the fact that dogs can not only talk, but they interact with humans and there’s no real shock or awe about it. We have always wondered how dogs would communicate with us if they COULD talk (don’t tell me, dog owners, that you don’t make up dialogue for your doggo when they tilt their head at you or bark) and it’s a lot of fun to see this world where no one is stepping back and saying “oh my goodness! You’re a dog and you can talk!”. It just IS.
Of course I am supposed to put my film writer hat on and pick it apart. But PAW PATROL is not this movie. It pushes through and connects to the dog lover in all of us. I think a lot of dog owners will very much connect to the moment that our lead Paw Patrol member Chase is scared and hides in a corner, only to find himself surprised when approached. I had a Cairn Terrier dog for 16 years that was terrified of thunder and would come running to me, and me only, for protection when the noise hit his ears. Even a silly movie like this made me reflect on a long-lost dog pal, and this movie subtly gets that connection between man and human in a totally weird way.
The voice work is questionable here and I’m not sure if that is the intent. Everyone else seems to be in that cliche where I imagine them arriving at the recording studio, coffee in hand and getting the script sheet handed to them five minutes beforehand with no time for rehearsal. The major exception here is the voice actor who did Liberty, who seems like she DID put a lot of effort into her overly friendly and brave stray that becomes a Paw Patrol member, and you can feel her confidence translate over to the “underdog” type character in spades.
So yes, PAW PATROL absolutely works for its intended audience. For this weary film writer who is normally known for film festivals and 4k discs, I had a fun time with its exuberance, candy-colored energy and never found it moved away from its intent to entertain, as weird as it all is. And if you’re the parents of some very excited kids who will be hyped up on popcorn and sugar water to see this on the big screen…trust me, you’re in for a fun time too.
PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE is now playing in theatres. Many thanks to Elevation & Taro PR for sending along an advance copy for review.