Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.
It has always been risky to make a theatrical film based on a television show. When it comes to children's shows, that can be a tough nut to crack. To clarify, I'm talking about shows primarily aimed at very young children. It is rare to see these types of shows on the big screen, and usually, the results are not positive. In addition, these have always been viewed as a negative stereotype by moviegoers whenever a film is rated G or just pandering to kids without any substance. It's true that major companies have made family films that break that mold, but for a long time movies like Barney's Great Adventure and OogieLoves in The Big Balloon Adventure failed to win both critical and financial acclaim.
When given to the right hands, they can work out on their own and be a pleasant surprise. The most prominent examples are Sesame Street: Follow That Bird and Dora and The Lost City of Gold. In terms of the latter, it came as no surprise that another show from Nick Jr.'s library would be adapted for the big screen. Case and point: PAW Patrol.
It was developed by Keith Chapman, who was the creator of Bob the Builder, a series I was familiar with when I was a kid. In the show, Ryder and his search-and-rescue puppy crew go on adventures, saving Adventure Bay from the evil Mayor Humdinger. The show has since become a global phenomenon, running for 8 seasons and selling toys and merchandise under Spin Master. In addition, it was recently criticized for being "non-liberal" on law enforcement and was "canceled" following the murder of George Floyd. You guys, it's a kids' show about dogs doing heroic deeds. Grow up.
With regard to the movie, Spin Master's experimented with expanding the world of their property since 2017. The movie was also directed by Cal Brunker, who previously worked at Illumination and directed a couple of movies that honestly wasn’t his fault, since this was Weinstein’s problem. After some test animations, a new script, and casting celebrities like Tyler Perry and Kim Kardashian, the movie was finally released. Personally, I was surprised at how good the movie turned out after all the anticipation.
The PAW Patrol and Chase (voiced by Ian Armitage) must travel across Adventure City to save it from Mayor Humdinger (voiced by Ron Pardo).
Big City = Big Adventure
When writing for children's series, expanding the world can sometimes prove challenging, especially for those who are past the target group. Despite its simplicity, the movie's first few minutes give some context and establish who these characters are. There's also a bit of self-awareness of how devoted yet serious these puppies are to their jobs.
Once Adventure City is introduced, the movie really begins to gain momentum. Storytelling-wise, it makes sense. The PAW Patrol had always patrolled a small town on the waterfront on a regular basis. The writing demonstrates how adapting to a new environment can change and affect a person, including our main character Chase, when they are called for assistance from the big city. Due to this show's focus on rescue and law enforcement, the action scenes have been heightened, making our heroes face dangerous and suspenseful situations. Character development in a movie such as this is also, no pun intended, a rare breed.
Despite its basic, formulaic, and straightforward nature, there is an innocence that will make any audience feel emotionally invested. Yes, the arc of the main character is predictable, but it is effective within the context of the show. In fact, that is what the writers intended. Aside from that, there are comedic moments in the film. There are recurring gags that are mildly amusing, but there are some dialogues and one-liners that made me laugh. PAW Patrol made me laugh, yes. Regardless of whether you are a fan or not, there was definitely some effort and charm thrown into the writing.
Advanced and Action-Packed Animation
It is expected that a show-based movie would have an upgraded, cinematic feel. After the trailer was released, it was clear that the animators at Mikros Image had done their homework. The animation quality is better than their previous movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, especially with a lower budget of $26 million.
The animation style has stayed very faithful to the show with both humans and animals having a stylized cartoon look with a hint of realism. The cinematic updates have improved the textures of both hair and clothing, as well as the smoothness and polish of the character animation. While humans are down-to-earth, puppies are much more animated. The animation of smoke, fire, water and other effects has also been enhanced. There are unique and creative pieces of equipment and vehicles that were created by the PAW Patrol when they were on duty.
Like the writing, the action sequences and backgrounds are the highlights of the animation. As we begin, the PAW Patrol is in Adventure Bay, a small beach community. Upon entering Adventure City, the movie emphasizes how expansive it is and how threatening Mayor Humdinger's plans would be in this setting. Some examples of these situations include lighting too many fireworks that burn everywhere but the sky, designing a loop-de-loop subway line that puts riders at risk and having a cloud machine go haywire with a massive storm. Although they sound ridiculous, they feel intense and how an action-adventure would put their audiences on the edge of their seats. Additionally, there is an animated 2-D credits sequence. It will not only be fun for children, but also for adults who are impressed by the level of detail in the animation.
Plain Characters, Compassionate Heroes
It is unrealistic to expect complexity from characters in a kids' show. These are simple yet charming enough characters for kids to understand. The puppies in this litter are no different.
With the PAW Patrol, we have Ryder, the human leader. He is a positive young man who always helps someone in trouble. Those on his team are the firefighter Dalmatian Marshall, the aviating Cockapoo Skye, the comic relief bulldog Rubble, the recycling mix breed Rocky, and the aquatic Labrador Zuma. In spite of this, Chase, Ryder's pet German Shepherd, is the only fully developed character. Chase, while usually the brave and heroic dog, struggles with his duties due to his troubled past as a stray in Adventure City. It is predictable, but with Ian Artimage's performance, that character has genuine and sweet quality.
One of the film's most memorable characters is the plucky and idolizing Dachshund Liberty, voiced by Marsai Martin. She is an ally and eventual new member of the team, who is knowledgeable about Adventure City whenever the team has troubles adjusting to their new environment. Our citizens include the nerd scientist Kendra, the news anchor Marty Muckraker, the sassy poodle Delores, and the trucker Gus.
Then there is Mayor Humdinger, the show's antagonist. He's an arrogant and self-indulgent politician who moved to Adventure City as mayor and makes trouble there. Along with him are his spoiled cats and his bickering henchmen Butch and Reuben. In the same way that Robbie Rotten from Lazytown was a toddler's introduction to an over-the-top villain, Mayor Humdinger would be his successor. Other recurring characters from the show basically have cameos.
The actors from the show reprised most of their roles except for Ian Artimage and Will Brisbin as Chase and Ryder, respectively. For the celebrity voices, they are decent at best and give their all. Generally speaking, there isn’t much to say about these characters, but with these performances, there will be some that convey the heart.
Overall, PAW Patrol: The Movie is surprisingly a solid animated feature that is respectful to the show and entertaining for the right merits. Even though older audiences and newcomers may dismiss it as a harmless kid-distracter, this movie has confidently proven that a movie based on a kids' show can succeed. Technically speaking, this is by far, the best movie based on a Nick Jr. show I have seen. In fact, I would recommend slightly over The Loud House Movie, in terms of production values. The storyline and action sequences are much better than expected, the animation is more detailed and executed well, and the characters are as innocent and pure as an actual puppy. Kids of any age and fans of the show will undoubtedly have a great time with this flick. Parents or animation fans will find that there was definitely love and care put into the movie rather than it being a cash grab. Cal Brunker showed that he and his crew really worked passionately hard in it, and I really appreciate the effort. For those that are uncertain, it is a rental, or watch it for free on Paramount+ streaming. No job is too big. No pup is too small.
Keiki from Melbourne on August 25, 2021:
Great Movie and Paw Patrol makes a great theme for a birthday party. littlekeikiboutiki.com