Tribune News Service
If you happen find yourself at “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie,” it is more than likely you’re already familiar with the denizens of Adventure City, and have already quelled any lingering concerns about the fact that this accident-prone hamlet is protected by a private platoon of puppies, piloting an alarming array of heavy machinery, led by only a small child named Ryder (Finn Lee-Epp).
If you happen to have little to no familiarity with the “PAW Patrol” universe, like this critic, the canine-based quirks of Adventure City are initially alarming. Ryder and the puppies have their own aircraft carrier?! And a skyscraper?! Where is this funding coming from? It can’t all be from merch sales. Also, are the dogs cops?
But the tone of the “PAW Patrol” world is so pleasant and guileless that it’s easy to accept their unique way of life. Sure, the PAW Patrol could easily take over Adventure City and turn it into their own autocracy with the armada of planes, trucks and all-terrain vehicles they wield with their tiny paws, not to mention the absolute subservience they’ve instilled in the citizenry, but that’s another movie entirely, and they have far too many kooky villains to vanquish.
They’re like furry, adorable little Batmen, Adventure City their Gotham, the mysterious Ryder a Bruce Wayne of sorts, except there are no secret identities with which to tangle, just megalomaniacal mayors and colorful mad scientists, such as their latest foe, Victoria Vance (Taraji P. Henson), cut from the Riddler’s cloth. She steals an electromagnet from the junkyard in order to snag a meteor out of the sky during a shower, for vaguely nefarious power-mad reasons.
But when the magnet malfunctions, the meteor crashes right into the PAW Patrol tower. They quarantine the space rock aboard their ship to run tests (again, I beseech, where are Ryder’s parents?), and ultimately keep the loot that’s inside the meteor: glowing crystals that impart each dog with unique superpowers. These aren’t just regular pups, they’re mighty pups, which is a big boon for the diminutive Skye (Mckenna Grace), the petite pilot who hasn’t gotten over her experience as the runt of the litter.
“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is directed by Cal Brunker, who directed the original “PAW Patrol: The Movie,” and wrote the script with longtime collaborator Bob Barlen, and Shane Morris. The filmmakers use the cute pups to play with aspects of classic superhero lore from “Batman” of course, and “Superman,” with some dashes of “Power Rangers” and other easily recognizable tropes.
In “The Mighty Movie,” they center Skye as the character who gets to work through her puppyhood trauma and prove herself as a worthy member of the team. Truthfully, the only cruelty on display is a gut-wrenching flashback sequence to a baby Skye struggling through a snowstorm, her Barbie-pink eyes fluttering against the cold, set to an original Christina Aguilera ballad. That’s a low blow, Brunker!
Throw in a whole heck of a lot of puns and sand all the edges down so everything is gently charming, inoffensive and just silly enough but not too silly to be annoying. The kids around you will shout when the pups are in peril, and cheer when they emerge triumphant. It’s actually kind of a pleasant experience, but here’s hoping the third movie features an audit of the Adventure City government.
‘PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE’
2.5 stars (out of 4)
MPA rating: PG (for mild action/peril)
Running time: 1:32
How to watch: In theaters Friday
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