Review: 'Paw Patrol: The Movie' (2021) Dir. Cal Brunker
The 2013 animation that became a worldwide pre-school smash makes the leap to the big screen to introduce new faces, new adventures whilst retaining that old-school family fun...
Living out in Adventure Bay, a group of fearless heroic pups known as the Paw Patrol and their owner / leader Ryder (Will Brisbin) continue to help save the citizens from a host of precarious situations whenever needed.
In the neighbouring Adventure City, the nefarious Mayor Humdinger (Pardo) becomes newly elected mayor of the city and introduces a number of dangerous, ineffective and disastrous ideas that cause chaos for everyone.
The Paw Patrol move out to Adventure City to help stop Humdinger's dangerous plans, but while there must contend with new threats and new faces that will have them work together like never before to become the best group of heroes they can be...
The biggest risk in taking a beloved children's television programme to the big screen is that the studio sells out to commercialism and pop-culture fandom. It's been done many times before, and not all to great success. Spreading a 15-20min TV episode into a 80min feature film is not easy, and more often than not these films try too hard and ruin the nature of the show - Thomas and the Magic Railroad for one - or simply do not deliver an entertaining narrative to keep young ones entertained and convince grown-ups to fork out their cash for tickets and merchandise.
However it's with great surprise and relief that Paw Patrol: The Movie doesn't sell out to become a tick-box of pop culture nods and winks, bar a pointless Kim Kardashian cameo as pampered poodle Delores. Instead, this maintains the themes of the popular show and expands on the trials and troubles that are often faced by our heroic pups for a story that is sweet in execution, but also one that looks slick and effective on the big screen and is able to deliver more thrills and excitement for little viewers. There are no moments that will cause upset or fear, but there is of course a few scenes where morals and self-belief come into play done in a tender way, all good and welcome in helping children lean a little more about what it means to be a "hero" or be "brave" in todays society.
Rather than come across as three episodes stitched together, there is a decent journey taken from start to finish, with new locations and characters to maintain investment and be fresh for audiences.
A talented voice cast of kids led by "Young Sheldon" star Iain Armitage continue to bring the Paw Patrol to life, each with their air of innocence and daring-do, and a surprising amount of compassion when needed. A few big names help flesh out the supporting characters such as bumbling Mayor Humdinger, our Lex Luthor-style villain voiced by Ron Pardo, new pup in the city Liberty voiced by Marsai Martin and Yara Shahidi as a well-to-do scientist. The characters they voice are all bubbly, well animated and add a little something to the story. But it's the Paw Patrol themselves who are the real stars for younger viewers, and thanks to director Brunker who has a strong career of movie animation, the pups don't become supporting characters in their own film.
They are given spruced up outfits, modern vehicles, top-range gadgets and exciting action to get stuck into for the big screen. Yet, everything is familiar and identifiable from the show- there's nothing fans will have to adjust to or try too hard to understand. And thanks to the ethics of being a film, writers Billy Frolick, Bob Barlen and Brunker make the danger a little more than simply saving a broken bridge or trapped turtle in Adventure Bay. Here we have burning buildings, derailed monorails and out-of-control weather stations all allowing our pups to be a new band of superheroes for little ones to et excited about that actually follows a story and not just random set-piece after set-piece. And being only 80mins, there is no evident drags or slumps in the flow of things.
With the familiar theme tune by Scott Simons used without any tweaks or changes, it proves that this film is made with love by those who have developed it over the years but also for young (and old) fans who want to see a familiar sight and story but with the majesty, fun and big-scale thrills and laughter on the big screen. There's no compromise in quality, themes or voice talent here, and it's a real surprise - and blessing - to see a film like this done so well with such care.
Paw-some fun for all the family, and more essentially it never loses the core themes of what 'Paw Patrol' is about, but expands on them with impressive animation and a sweet story.
'Paw Patrol: The Movie' is a co-production between Nickelodeon Movies, Spin Master Entertainment and Mikros Image