Review: 'Paw Patrol: The Movie': A fun time for kids, a ruff ride for everyone else

Michael Ordoña
Los Angeles Times

To very young kids who like cartoon dogs driving shiny vehicles, "Paw Patrol: The Movie" may be awesome. To grown-ups, it may be an aggressively under-written, 88-minute toy commercial.

The first feature bounding from the Canadian 2D-animated TV show (broadcast in the U.S. on Nickelodeon) finds the helpful hounds moving from Adventure Bay to new, tricked-out digs in Adventure City. There, by a misunderstanding of how elections work, incompetent nemesis Mayor Humdinger (voiced by Ron Pardo) becomes head of the big town. He has terrible ideas about how to impress citizens without doing any good; the pooches with emergency services-based skills must save the city from disastrous vanity projects.

Chase (from left, voiced by Iain Armitage), Rocky (Callum Shoniker), Skye (Lilly Bartlam), Zuma (Shayle Simons), Rubble (Keegan Hedley) and Marshall (Kingsley Marshall) in “Paw Patrol: The Movie.” (Spin Master/TNS)

German shepherd Chase (voiced by Iain Armitage) has traumatic memories of Adventure City — this is aimed at very young kids, so "traumatic" means he was scared of being alone in such a hectic place — and an eager dachshund, Liberty (voiced by Marsai Martin), wants to join the team.

Not-too-frightening perils ensue. The courageous canines must heroically face down an irresponsibly administrated fireworks display. A haywire weather-studying machine causes strong winds that blow off a toupee and other stuff. Also ensuing: Many displays of what these streamlined, expandable, doggie-driven machines can do — just imagine how much fun the real-life toys would be (accessories not included)!

Slightly stepped up from common TV animation for kids, the look of "Paw Patrol" is below the standard detail, texture, artistic use of color and daring design of today's theatrical 3D computer visuals. Rather than exploring expressions beyond Big Happy Smile and Sad Little Frown, more attention is paid to the plastic-looking toys, er, cars and trucks. One can only assume the streaming version of the film on Paramount+ includes "Add to cart" buttons on the screen.

It's such an undisguised advertisement (the series and film are made by toy manufacturer Spin Master) that at one point, a character is asked how the heroic headquarters are funded, and he brandishes a T-shirt, chirping, "Officially licensed Paw Patrol merchandise. This stuff sells like hot cakes."

Translated: "Kids, do you want the Paw Patrol to have a home? Add to cart!"

There are unremarkable voice cameos (Randall Park, Jimmy Kimmel, Tyler Perry, Dax Shepard and Kim Kardashian, if you can pick them out) and numerous song breaks including brightly colored tunes by Adam Levine and Alessia Cara.

The dialogue is fairly represented by the line: "Where is it? There's so many buildings. I wonder which one it is."

Fear not, there are more toys to look at in the climax. And if those aren't enough to quench your unslakable thirst for these readily purchasable items, stick around for the front end of the credits, which offer 2D drawings of the movie-edition vehicles invading your local retailer like an unstoppable fungus.

The show is presumably popular, so there's probably a 3- to 6-year-old audience for this out there. Accompanying adults, though, are in for a ruff time.

'PAW PATROL: THE MOVIE'

GRADE: C-

MPAA rating: G (some violence, such as bombing and attacking)

Running time: 1:28

Where to watch: In theaters and streaming on Paramount+ Friday