PAW Patrol: The Movie

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If, like me, you've got a young child at home, you're probably very acquainted with PAW Patrol. It has become arguably the hottest kids' show of the past decade. If you aren't familiar with the series, it follows a boy named Ryder who leads a team of helper dogs. Chase is a police dog, Marshall a firefighting dog, Rubble a construction worker dog, etc. They respond to various emergencies, cheerfully showing up to help anyone in need.

The show has been sufficiently popular to spawn a feature film. PAW Patrol: The Movie manages to expand the scope of the premise while still retaining its simple charms and basic message about the value of helping people.

Adventure City is under the grip of Mayor Humdinger, an inept leader who brags about his wealth, has his name branded on the tallest skyscraper in the city, is prejudiced against dogs, and enacts a plan to separate pooches from their owners and keep them locked in cages. (Hmmm...I wonder if that's a metaphor for someone.) His new project is forcing a scientist to use her cloud-catching machine to make the weather nice for a big self-celebration he's planning. She warns that misuse of the gizmo could be catastrophic, but he refuses to listen. Chaos ensues, complicated by the fact that Chase suffers a crippling bout of insecurity, rendering him afraid to answer the call of duty.

The heroes of PAW Patrol: The Movie find themselves in a series of imaginative action scenes. For example, they have to rescue a group of passengers after Mayor Humdinger decides to add loop-de-loops to the city's rail system. Later, they have to de-activate the cloud-catcher, which means scaling the tower atop Humdinger's high-rise. Each Patrol member gets a chance to use his or her special skill during these adventures. The group also recruits a new dog, Liberty (voiced by Black-ish's Marsai Martin). She's a weiner dog with street smarts, making her a valuable addition to the team.

Tasks befalling the PAW Patrol are more elaborate in the film, and the animation is more detailed. It even utilizes a widescreen aspect ratio to open up the world of Adventure City. There are way more laughs, too. The screenplay is filled with witty dialogue and clever moments of comedy, several involving a local TV news reporter (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel) who can't help editorializing. When something is available for free on television, paying to see an extended version of it can be less than enticing. PAW Patrol: The Movie cranks everything up a notch or two, so that the feature-length treatment feels warranted.

A celebration of both teamwork and people who serve the public, the movie will delight the young viewers at whom it's aimed. Parents, meanwhile, will feel good about them seeing an optimistic, upbeat, non-cynical film. PAW Patrol: The Movie exemplifies the old cliché – it really is a picture the whole family can enjoy.

out of four

PAW Patrol: The Movie is rated G. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.