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PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie (Film Review)

3 min read

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

For the uninitiated is a world wide phenomenon for the under-ten crowd. Following the adventures of 10-year-old Ryder and his team of talking dogs – police-dog Chase, pilot Skye, fire-fighter Marshall, demolition expert Rubble, clean-up operative Rocky and aquatic rescuer Zuma – basically, it's Thunderbirds but with talking dogs. 2021's first film took the crew from the sea-side town of Adventure Bay where each episode would typically involve some kind of issue for the gang to roll out and sort out, and placed them in Adventure City for a bigger adventure and a new member in the street-wise Liberty (Marsai Martin).

While the first film mixed good family-friendly jokes with thrilling action and an emotional story that dared to talk about trauma, political corruption and climate change (no seriously), the second film shifts focus away from Chase, and this time to tiny pup Skye (McKenna Grace). Instead of examining Chase's trauma like the first film, this one looks at Skye's feelings of inadequacy as the smallest puppy and her worries that she's not a key member of the team. This happens to coincide with a new villain Victoria Vance (Taraji P. Henson) pulling a meteor to Earth containing crystals that imbue the holder with superpowers based on their personality.

If we're to be cynical adults about the film – the choice to once again focus on one puppy does mean that the others aren't given a lot of time (admittedly Rubble did just get a Paramount+ spin-off series so his smaller screen time might have been scheduling related). Even so, choosing to zero in on one dog does mean that a deeper, more emotional story can be told. Much like the first film's acknowledgement that our fears from the past can affect us but ultimately we make our own destiny, this film assures the young viewer that your size or your insecurities make you who you are. This does lead to a very emotionally satisfying explanation of one of the franchise's catchphrases.

It's also true that from an analytical perspective, the choice to bring back regular villain Mayor Humdinger (Ron Pardo) does undermine the good work of Henson and means there's less time for Vance's menacing appearance, which is some of the film's strongest elements. It's also true that the Liberty-centric subplot about her training three cute Pomeranians to be junior cadets feels a little like filler and doesn't help the film's themes, though Liberty and her voice actress Martin, does get the bulk of the film's best one-liners.

Cal Bruckner who returns to direct following the first film, keeps the action and the jokes fast paced and zippy. A meteor crash is exciting, and a plane landing sequence is genuinely tense, while the finale offers enough bright colours and explosions to make even the most cynical adult smile. It's also very funny, with witty jokes that aim both low and high and hit the mark.

For parents wanting to take their under-tens to see something, this is a perfect weekend outing, nothing offensive, or suggestive, no crass humour, just a thrilling adventure with a hopeful message that tells the little ones that they're differences make them special, and that anyone can be hero. And, sometimes even the grown ups need to be reminded of that too.

  • Paul (aged 29)

“It was amazing when Skye flew into the biggest meteor I have ever seen, but Humdinger got too big, and I didn't like that.”

– Avery (aged 4)

PAW PATROL: The Mighty Movie releases in UK cinemas on 13th October with previews on September 30th, October 1st, 7th & 8th