There’s a certain lack of self-respect you feel for yourself when you have to see any Paw Patrol movie in theaters on opening day. Yeah, I know it comes with the job, but no matter how professional I may be and how many family movies I’ve reviewed, I’ll still never feel comfortable watching Paw Patrol. Bluey? No problem watching that whatsoever. Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie? Let me sink into my seat until I evaporate into nothingness.
It may be because of my more cynical outlook given that I’ve already seen a whole host of bad movies this year, and it may be because I just don’t feel as much hatred as I did two years ago, but to my absolute shock and amazement, Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie…isn’t very good. It’s still a weak movie in a franchise that is all about raking in all that sweet delicious cash from parents, but at the very least I was able to see an attempt at doing something purposeful as opposed to the first movie. That, and making fun of it with three other people next to me definitely did lift my spirits.
Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie
Director: Cal Brunker
Release Date: September 29, 2023 (Theatrical/Paramount+)
So before we actually get to the film itself, I just need to say that the second the movie began, my friends and I were immediately assaulted with two animated sequences that put me personally into a panic. First was a music video for the lead “hit single” of the film, “Down Like That,” where footage from the entire film is shown as the pups dance around. Why is this here at the beginning instead of at the end? Couldn’t tell you, but seeing all of the dogs with their soulless CG eyes staring directly into the camera doing the most forced dances put a smile on my face for how awkward it was. In theory, I guess it was to introduce to little kids how to behave in a theater, but also considering that we were next to a teenager who frankly didn’t care and there was an adult sitting in the back corner of the theater BY THEMSELVES, I think no one needed the message. And if you didn’t like the song, sorry, it’s in the film four more times.
Then we were thrust into a short advertising a new Dora the Explorer show. At first, it felt nostalgic seeing Dora appear on screen, but then Boots decided to walk alongside her with his barely functioning CG model and we all wished somebody would put Boots out of his misery like Old Yeller. It then turned into what I can only describe as a fever dream of fury and colors with some Spanish thrown in as Dora went on a mini adventure on a rainbow where she saved flying frogs from Swiper the Fox by working together with the sun and moon to return what I can only describe as concentrated Lost Grace from Elden Ring. Why am I telling you all of this? It’s to make sure that what I saw was actually real because I still think I had a mild stroke for a few minutes.
When Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie actually begins, it’s been some time since the events of the last film, and, try to act surprised, the Paw Patrol is still saving Adventure City from disasters. On the night of a meteor shower, a mad scientist named Victoria Vance (Taraji P. Henson) uses a gigantic magnet to pull a meteor into Adventure City, destroying the Paw Patrol headquarters. She’s quickly arrested, but upon the Paw Patrol taking the meteor in for analysis, Skye (Mckenna Grace), the air rescue dog, discovers that the meteor has crystals inside of it that give her and the rest of the dogs superpowers. Because Vance wants these powers for herself, she teams up with the villainous personification of whiteness himself, Humdinger (Ron Pardo), to break out of jail, get the crystals, and get revenge on the Paw Patrol.
I’ll give the movie this: the cynicism of the first movie has been dialed back a lot. I gave the first movie a lot of grief for having absolutely no plot and instead just being centered on trying to sell toys to kids. And look, The Mighty Movie still does that a lot. All of the superpowers the pups get also come with new rescue vehicles and the movie just outright says to parents that they’ll have to buy them all. But at the very least, there’s actually a plot here with dialogue that isn’t just catchphrases. The pups will still spout them, but hey, they’re not the only dialogue present!
Like how Chase was more-or-less the main character of the first movie, Skye is labeled the protagonist since she is the one initiating a lot of the major plot beats and has the obligatory sad backstory. She’s the one who discovers the crystals, tries to rescue the most civilians, stops the villains, and saves the day. While I appreciate the film having a much more focused protagonist, it’s a double-edged sword as well. Because of this, the rest of the cast is barely even present. I’m pretty sure that Rocky, the green dog, only has two or three lines of dialogue in the entire film. Even Chase, the prior protagonist, is hardly on the case! This is the inverse problem that the first movie had, which seemed to contrive situations for the rest of the cast to solve despite barely being in it. This focus does help the movie develop an emotional core, which is about overcoming your own insecurities to grow. It may not be much, but a message is a message.
About midway through the film, more than any other feeling, I felt bored by Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie. There wasn’t anything notable or bad about the film, it was just a generic and limp animated movie that wanted to sell toys to kids. Celebrities will pop up for a quick line, but I can’t tell if it’s because it’s an easy paycheck to cameo in a film like this or if they’re doing the film because their kids love the series. Kim Kardashian has an entire sequence dedicated to her character that serves no purpose other than to have an excuse to include her in the film. Maybe it’s for marketing, maybe it’s from a genuine place, but it doesn’t change the fact that it failed to elicit any reaction in me or the few kids that were in the theater. If anything, it felt like when Dreamworks had major celebrities in their films despite no one really caring who they were.
The superpower gimmick also barely amounts to anything. The film makes a big deal about the pups getting superpowers, but they only use them once or twice in the entire movie. The dogs get new vehicles that are upgrades based on their newfound powers, but they can still use them even without their superpowers, so what’s the point of having new abilities? I guess it’s to make sure that Skye is able to have her climactic final scene where she goes Saitama on a meteor, but she could have gone Iron Giant instead. Probably would have notched up the film a couple of points in my book watching one of the dogs die in the line of duty. But no, happy ending all around for the most basic animated show of our time.
Again, I need to stress that I KNOW I’m not the target demographic for the movie. I’m an embittered adult who got joy from convincing three other people to join me on this excursion. There are better-animated films that came out this year, arguably ones that are even more blatant marketing advertisements, but Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie is so unambitious that, once again, this feels like a made-for-TV movie that somehow got a theatrical release. I mean, it did release simultaneously on Paramount+ so maybe it is a straight-to-streaming movie that did get a theatrical release. I honestly and legitimately don’t care because I still had to pay for it.
More than the previous film, I can at least see why a kid would be entertained by Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie. Having an actual plot and main character with a central conflict tends to make a film easier and clearer to follow. I can’t in good conscience recommend the film to parents, but if your kids want to see the film it’s not going to actively harm them. Maybe that “Down Like That” song will because of how often it plays in the movie and how not even Kids Bop would publish it, but the film itself is merely okay. It’s better than a lot of the dreck I’ve had to see this year, which is a backhanded compliment. The film may have been weak, but at least it’s an improvement in a few key areas.