Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 4, 2022)
Because I’m in my 50s and have no kids, I never saw the PAW Patrol TV show. I assumed it aimed for a fairly young crowd and didn’t give it a look.
However, I remained open to the possibility I misjudged. As such, 2021’s PAW Patrol: The Movie wound up in my Blu-ray player.
In Adventure Bay, a youngster named Ryder (voiced by Will Brisbin) leads a team of heroic puppies called the PAW Patrol. They help keep the locals protected when danger arises.
Nearby Adventure City picks scurrilous Humdinger (Ron Pardo) as their mayor. As his shenanigans threaten the peace, the PAW patrol kicks into action to save the day.
On a discussion board I visit, I got into a debate about what separates a “family film” from a “kids movie”. I argued that a “family film” appeals to youngsters but isn’t created explicitly for them, whereas a “kids movie” aims mainly for a young audience.
Without question, Patrol falls into the second category. Although it comes with some entertainment value for an older crowd, the film nonetheless exists for the pre-teens.
Not that there’s anything wrong with such a project. While I appreciate movies like ET the Extra-Terrestrial or the Pixar flicks – efforts that work equally well for a wide range of age demographics – little kids deserve their own films as well.
And Patrol will undoubtedly fare best with the early elementary school audience. It throws out a slew of cutesy animal characters and peppy visuals, with only the most minor sense of danger involved.
Of course, Patrol imbues the story with the vague hint of peril for its puppy protagonists, but the tone remains so light that it seems unlikely many will truly fret. This becomes a light adventure with drama that creates modest tension among anyone over the age of four.
I also suspect Patrol will deliver only minor entertainment for those over the age of four as well. Again, I don’t regard this as a problem, for little kids deserve their own programming.
Patrol strongly orients toward that audience. With lots of cool gadgets, adorable animals and bright colors, it boasts clear appeal for little ones.
Beyond that, older viewers likely won’t find Patrol to offer a painful experience, but they also probably won’t genuinely enjoy it. Patrol does toss out bones to adults, with a few slightly clever bits of dialogue as well as voice performances from known actors like Randall Park, Tyler Perry, Jimmy Kimmel and Kim Kardashian.
Beyond “stop evil Mayor Humdinger”, Patrol barely attempts a plot. It tosses in a theme related to a crisis of confidence from Patrol pup Chase (Iain Armitage), but one shouldn’t expect much of a story.
All of this creates 86 minutes of fun for young kids – and 86 minutes of tolerable content for older folks. I’ll never want to watch Patrol again, but I can’t claim I disliked my time with it.