By Bob Garver
Standard disclaimer for any and all “PAW Patrol” media: I am not the target audience for “PAW Patrol.” The target audience for “PAW Patrol” is young children and only young children. This is not a “fun for all ages” property that adults can enjoy as much as kids. At best, adults watching with kids can enjoy how much their kids enjoy it. But adults will not enjoy it for themselves. I saw the movie by myself, and did not enjoy it myself. But there were plenty of kids in the theater and I enjoyed how much they enjoyed it.
The PAW Patrol are an animated team of talking dogs that live to protect Adventure City. Under the supervision of human leader Ryder (Finn Lee-Epp), the Patrol consists of police officer Chase (Christian Covery), firefighter Marshall (Christian Corrao), water rescuer Zuma (Nylan Parthipan), handydog Rocky (Callum Shoniker), builder/demolisher Rubble (Luxton Handspiker), pilot Skye (Mckenna Grace), and flexible Liberty (Marsai Martin). The film introduces new characters in the form of a set of Junior Patrollers: Tot (Brice Gonzalez), Nano (Alan Kim), and Mini (North West, whose brother Saint has a small part as a “Meteor Man,” and whose mother Kim Kardashian cameos as a lazy poodle).
Evil (don’t call her “mad”) scientist Victoria Vance (Taraji P. Henson) carries out a plan to harness the power of a passing meteor. Unfortunately the plan backfires and the PAW Patrol have to save all of Adventure City from the meteor that Vance brings to Earth. The PAW Patrol takes possession of the meteor, while Vance goes to prison, where her cellmate is none other than disgraced former mayor Humdinger (Ron Pardo). The two team up to break out, harness the power of more meteors, and defeat the PAW Patrol.
It turns out that the meteor contains crystals that dole out superpowers. Chase gains super-speed, Marshall can shoot fireballs, Zuma can turn into water, Rocky gains magnetism, Rubble can turn into a wrecking ball, and Skye can fly… without her jet. The team decides that with these great powers comes a need for new costumes, new vehicles, and a new name – The Mighty Pups. Parents will groan during this portion of the movie, because they know that the Mighty Pups will become a line of toys that their kids will want them to buy. The movie itself even jokes about this ploy, not that joking about it makes it okay.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention the superpower gained by Liberty. As the flexible member of the team, she doesn’t really have a theme and thus her power is not readily apparent. She’s forced to stay back and train the Junior Patrollers while the others are out having adventures. That’s one of two subplots given to individual members of the team, the other being Skye’s struggle with insecurity over her size. She will, of course, eventually learn to take the team’s motto of “No job is too big, no pup is too small” to heart, but not before she makes a mess of things with Vance and Humdinger. Her journey could be boring and mopey, and to a degree it is, but talented actress Grace gives her performance enough gravity that I didn’t mind the emotional moments.
Occasional mushy stuff aside, “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is mostly fun and exciting, at least by PAW Patrol standards. Parents and even older kids will be wishing the movie could pick up the pace a little, but again, it’s aiming for a very young audience that might feel left behind by a quicker pace. For the kids at my screening, the movie was just right for them, and at the end they were cheering and applauding. And that’s what really matters.
“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is rated PG for mild action/peril. Its running time is 92 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.