They sure do churn em out. Here’s another episode of Nickelodeon’s animated TV show about a team of rescue dogs, jazzed up and padded out into a 48-minute cinema package. As a parent of a toddler, I’m not immune to Paw Patrol pester power. But I find the cinema outings soulless and depressing: three-year-olds disappearing into gawping trances, parents into the glow of their phones.
The new film feels like a cut-price knockoff of Pixar’s Cars, with a dull plot about a rally tournament where the star driver is a flashy but nice kid called the Whoosh (voiced by Joseph Motiki) and the Paw Patrol gang’s job is to crew the pitstop during the race. The villain is mega-sneaky racing driver Cheetah (Addison Holley), who introduces yet another irritatingly repetitive Paw Patrol catchphrase: “If you can’t beat ’em, cheat ’em!” When the Whoosh crashes out after being nobbled by Cheetah, firefighter pup Marshall (Lukas Engel) must take his place behind the wheel.
Can Marshall dodge Cheetah’s dirty tricks and overcome his lack of confidence to take first place? All the usual believe-in-yourself, hard-work-wins messages apply, alongside some screechy tyre-burning action. But there’s zero here for adults: Paw Patrol is action with stabilisers, training little kids up for big kid bangs. It’s so aggressively targeted at pre-schoolers that in no sense can you call it a family movie. And parents who’ve forked out for a flashing Paw Patrol toothbrush may blow a piston at the running gag about the Whoosh being a walking product placement, constantly mugging for the camera in his own branded merch.
Paw Patrol: Ready, Race, Rescue! is released in the UK on 24 January.