‘Paw Patrol: The Movie’ Addresses Kids' Mental Health In An Awesome Way

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
An insert from the "PAW Patrol" movie
Paramount Pictures

Parents have a love/hate relationship with the show ‘Paw Patrol.’ Our young kids love it, and we have learned to live with it (I’m sure you’ve found yourself singing the theme song sometimes.) We know the world of Adventure Bay better than we know our own neighborhood. And our kids run around saying things like “Chase is on the case!” and “Rubble on the double!” Always ready to capitalize on our kids (and wallets) there is a new film in the PPU, ‘Paw Patrol: The Movie.’ Ryder and the pups are taking on their first full length feature and Scary Mommy was lucky enough to see it and talk to Iain Armitage, who voices Chase and Marsai Martin, who voices new pup Liberty.

My son is almost eight, which means he’s pretty much out of the ‘Paw Patrol’ world. (I think it’s the nostalgia for a simpler time in his life.) I was worried that he would write the movie off as something for littler kids, but he was invested in the story from the very beginning. For him, it was the familiarity of the characters he knows, but then the addition of a longer, slightly more evolved storyline. It isn’t trying to jam the lessons of obedience and being a rule follower down kids’ throats. I know that those are important lessons to learn, but so much of their lives are about this, it’s a lot when it comes from the shows they watch too.

In the ‘Paw Patrol Movie,’ the pups do what they do best — stop Humdinger from completely obliterating Adventure Bay, but they do it with a little more finesse. The longer runtime (90 minutes) really allows them to delve into some deeper social-emotional topics, which is hard to do in a 22 minute TV episode. Honestly, I didn’t think the pups had something like that in them, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that they did.

Since much of the film’s action takes place in Adventure City, there is an inherent otherness to their experiences. Of course, “no job is too big, and no pup too small,” but when you put country pups in the big city, it could be a recipe for disaster. This wasn’t a disaster at all.

Not much is known about the origin of the pups in the Paw Patrol, but in the ‘Paw Patrol Movie,’ we get to learn a little more about their fearless leader, Chase. Turns out, he’s from the big city; Ryder found him abandoned on the street and adopted him. Chase may still be an agent of the police state, but I’m a sucker for a cute rescue puppy. Adventure City holds a lot of less than happy memories for Chase, and he really has to grapple with that. This is where the deeper amount of social-emotional exploration comes in.

Chase is so unnerved by being back in the place that traumatizes him, and it affects his ability to do his job. Every time he has to save the day, he is literally debilitated by fear. It’s just a raw and honest thing for kids to see happen. And it’s never presented as a flaw or something bad, it’s merely a matter of fact. Chase has anxiety, and though they never call it that outright, anyone who has had a panic attack knows what it was. At one point, Ryder tells Chase to take it easy and let him and others handle saving the day and I was like, are we still watching the ‘Paw Patrol Movie?’ Because let me tell you, I was shocked. I’m so glad the movie is normalizing prioritizing your mental health.

“It’s still a kid’s show,” Iain Armitage said. “But even at a kid level to say, ‘it’s okay to have anxiety,’ or to be worried about something or scared. And to be able to talk about that with your friends like Chase does.”

Moving the main action of ‘Paw Patrol: The Movie’ means we get to meet a pup we’ve never seen before. Liberty, a long-haired Doxie, is streetwise, and shows a really great dichotomy to the other pups. The pups may know how to handle Adventure Bay, but this is Adventure City, and they need someone who knows what’s up. She fits right in with the pups, but also gives them a little more street cred. But it’s so cute watching her totally fangirl over the pups as she gets to fight alongside them.

“Being able to play Liberty was so cool,” Martin said of being able to create Liberty as her own character. “How can you not know ‘Paw Patrol?’ Being able to create a new character was fun.”

I also love that ‘Paw Patrol: The Movie’ chose to feature a Black female scientist, Kendra Wilson. She is totally brilliant and uses a lot of big science words that literally no one understands (well Rubble does once) but that doesn’t stop her from using them. It’s important for kids to see women in STEM, but doubly important for them to see a Black woman in STEM who was in charge. Of course her brilliance is always being undermined by a white man with a Napoleon complex, but it’s a start.

When talking to Iain and Marsai, I was dying to know a few personal things. All three of us agreed that our favorite pup is Liberty. Iain and I also really love Rubble, mainly because of his affinity for snacks. If they had to choose a job to perform as a member of the ‘Paw Patrol,’ Marsai would want to be Skye. Iain decided that he would want to be a “comforter,” someone who would be there to remind the pups to practice some self-care after they do their jobs.

All in all, I didn’t expect to love ‘Paw Patrol: The Movie’ as much as I did. I will admit that though I know who the pups are, I’d rather do anything but watch that cursed show. But even my partner, who has never seen an episode, was surprised at how enjoyable it is. If you’re a skeptic, trust me when I say you should absolutely see it. It will hopefully lead to some really important conversations about mental health and self-care. You can see it in theaters, or stream it on the Paramount+ app now.