My three-year-old has a conundrum. She loves “PAW Patrol,” but the franchise’s first feature film (2021) opens on a baby turtle in distress. The little guy ends up OK, of course (this is an animated children’s movie after all), but it caused enough trauma to effectively ban screenings in our house. That would be perfectly fine with me, except for the fact that “PAW Patrol: The Movie” is significantly more tolerable than “PAW Patrol” the series (and it’s many, many spinoffs.)

Our trip to see “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” was always going to be a gamble. Averse to risk, my wife and I bought insurance in the form of popcorn, Reese’s Pieces, and Twizzlers. And it worked — until it didn’t.

The theater was predictably packed for the 4:15 p.m. showing on its opening Saturday; “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” would win the weekend by what IndieWire box-office reporter Tom Brueggemann called a “healthy” margin. The showtime was a kid-friendly one for the preschoolers who got a full nap that day; with a playdate at noon, ours got all of 5 minutes of shuteye in the Cinemark parking lot. A classic overbooked weekend by my wife.

Our 6-year-old didn’t need a nap; she just needed, in order, 1) attention, 2) junk food, and 3) a good movie. As Meatloaf once sang — and a reference probably only the grandparents in our theater would get — “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

According to critics and audiences alike, “PAW Patrol 2” ain’t bad either; Metacritic even has “The Mighty Movie” as slightly better than the original. According to my family, the critics — meta and otherwise — are wrong.

“PAW Patrol 2” is not a good movie, and I have multiple bones to pick. At one point I remember distinctly feeling that even as a Paramount film, lead dog Chase (voiced by 13-year-old Christian Convery) had no right to quote “Top Gun” with “I feel the need…for super speed!” Am I over-defensive of “Top Gun”? Yes. Am I correct though? Also yes.

“The Mighty Movie” has a very good adult voice cast that does not necessarily deliver good performances. And no, I’m not just singling out Kim Kardashian here. The process for casting grownups for “The Mighty Movie” is mighty obvious: Hire the biggest stars who want to tell their kids they’re in the new “PAW Patrol” movie. The end.

Kardashian, who reprises her mini-role as pampered poodle Delores from the original film, takes it a step further — two, really. Both North West and Saint West, two of her four children with ex-husband Kanye “Ye” West, have roles in the sequel.

PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE, Delores (voice: Kim Kardashian), 2023. © Paramount Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
Delores, voiced by Kim Kardashian, in “Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie”©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Much of this stunt casting may make for better credits, but it doesn’t actually make for a better movie. Sure, Chris Rock’s mini-moment is worth a laugh, but beyond benefitting a bit from the comedian’s natural timing, the joke doesn’t actually need to be delivered by Rock to work. As it turns out, the character who gets the most laughs throughout the movie is bulldog Rubble, voiced by 12-year-old Luxton Handspiker (“Blue’s Clues & You”).

What definitely doesn’t work is Taraji P. Henson’s villainous character, Victoria Vance. Seemingly, the scientist’s entire reason for wanting to burn Adventure City (we’re way beyond Adventure Bay by this point) to the ground is because some randos in the past referred to her as a “mad” scientist. That may not sound like a point for me to pick at, but by the phrase’s fifth or sixth over-the-top uttering, one begins to realize that the film’s writers thought this callback would pack a bigger bite than it does.

To be fair to the credited trio of Cal Brunker (also director), Bob Barlen, and Shane Morris, like the sugar we personally plied ours with, what little kids crave is repetition. But that’s a pretty lazy excuse to just run back an entire storyline already covered by the show’s “Mighty Pups” miniseries. In the 2018 money-grab spinoff, a meteor crashes into Adventure Bay giving the pups superpowers. Guess exactly what happens in the 2023 money grab?

To be more than fair to the film, the five-year gap between iterations is a literal lifetime to the kids in the audience. But these boys and girls, many of them (like mine) COVID babies, were born into an on-demand world; with Paramount+ and YouTube, they’ve all seen this very plot line happen to the pups before. Don’t take my world for it — take theirs. Our theater must have had two dozen full-volume mini-narrators, which only seemed to pause when the film’s excellent theme song, “Down Like That” by Bryson Tiller, came on, giving way to a singalong.

Wisely, and to the absolute delight of the little boy seated to my right (not one of mine, but to be clear, not a problem), “PAW Patrol 2” relies pretty heavily on the anthem. Not only does it roll the song a few times throughout the movie, the movie-specific music video airs before the film, confusing my 6-year-old (“Daddy, did the movie start?”) while priming the younger kids for what is to come. Not in any way priming the kids was the new “Dora the Explorer” short that also plays ahead of “The Mighty Movie.”

(Among the actual previews we got at this screening was the trailer for upcoming Affirm Films Jesus musical “Journey to Bethlehem.” My kids were in the bathroom with my wife at the time, saving us several questions, though I have a few myself.)

PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE, Vee (voice: Taraji P. Henson), 2023. © Paramount Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection
Vee, voiced by Taraji P. Hensen©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

“Dora” and “PAW Patrol” are both Nickelodeon properties that target preschoolers, so there is some natural synergy there. Dora’s been away for awhile, however, and I got the sense that not many current preschoolers (certainly including my own) know who she is. Even my older daughter was a bit confused by the bilingual nature of the short — until, that is, she announced an ability to also speak Spanish. (She cannot.)

Finally, “PAW Patrol” tends to skew male (though Skye, voiced by McKenna Grace, is the clear hero of “The Mighty Movie”) and “Dora the Explorer” skews female. (Don’t come at me, it’s a marketing thing. I have two kids, girls, and they both prefer Ryder and his pups to Dora and her monkey Boots.) “Dora and the Fantastical Creatures” was simultaneously right at home and out of place.

By this point, I couldn’t wait to back home and out of that place. The popcorn and Reese’s Pieces were three-quarters empty and the Twizzlers were well on their way to the same level of depletion. The young audience was getting restless, and our girls had already swapped seats (and laps, and positions — including into ways the recliners aren’t even cleared for usage) multiple times.

I suddenly had a big chocolate stain on my T-shirt and we didn’t even have chocolate candy in our arsenal. That felt concerning. Our moviegoing experience was getting dicey and the movie hadn’t even started; what’s Spanish for “Please roll the feature presentation?” (Per Google Translate: ¿Por favor, pase la presentación de funciones?)


“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is in theaters now.

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