Probably my favorite part of reviewing DVDs and Blu-rays is that one day, I'm gushing about a visually ambitious film from Japan's all-time greatest director...and less than 24 hours later, it's talking dogs saving Christmas. Chalk it up to my high threshold of pain for kids' entertainment...or wait, don't, because Nickelodeon's PAW Patrol is actually a lot of harmless fun. I'd probably have gone bonkers for these highly-trained pups in my younger days (the way my six year-old still does, even though she's probably outside the target demographic), but that doesn't mean I can't still respect its goofball humor and surprisingly polished animation. Currently winding down its third season with more than 70 two-part episodes under its belt (with renewals confirmed for three more seasons already, thanks to merchandise), I won't stick with PAW Patrol after my daughter eventually outgrows it. For now, it's fine enough.
Though it's taken longer than usual for PAW Patrol to be churned out on DVD (this marks only the seventh release thus far, with each containing a paltry eight or so half-length adventures apiece), it plays well in small chunks. Each half-episode runs for 11 minutes, with the relatively small problem---a lost backpack, a trapped animal---solved before the credits roll...but every once in a while, the creative team gets ambitious and churns out a full 22-minute episode. That brings us to this latest DVD's main feature, "Pups Save Christmas": this double-length holiday episode first aired in 2013 during the show's very first season, and features Ryder and his pack of pups helping Santa fix his sleigh and deliver presents to their town of Adventure Bay. Five shorter half-length episodes are included too (below); three from the second season, and two from this year. The most recent ("Pups Save Sports Day", which aired less than three months ago) has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas and wasn't part of the last DVD collection, titled Sports Day. That alone should tell you exactly how much thought goes into these things.
Sigh. At least the show is pretty fun. It's formulaic and more than a little doofy, but the fun adventures and likable characters give PAW Patrol plenty of charm...even though the DVDs have proven to be little more than afterthoughts thus far (and skimpy, as this one's less than 80 minutes total!). Speaking of which: after a few ads, warnings, and logos, Paramount's DVD of Pups Save Christmas opens with colorful menu designs that are easy to use. But honestly, do we really need three separate selection screens for six episodes? This one-disc release arrives in an eco-friendly blue keepcase with a matching slipcover and a promotional insert. No extras are included.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Since PAW Patrol was created in HD and is barely three years old, it's no surprise that Pups Save Christmas looks uniformly strong on DVD with bright colors, strong image detail, and a pleasing amount of texture on the characters and backgrounds. All episodes are presented in their original 1.78:1 aspect ratios, which showcase PAW Patrol's eye-catching visual design and compositions. The stylized color schemes are vivid with no obvious bleeding, while shadow detail and black levels are consistent from start to finish. Small amounts of banding can be seen along the way, but that's expected for standard definition releases and may very well be a source material issue. Overall, this is one of the best-looking Nick Jr. DVDs in recent memory, and it's almost a shame there's no Blu-ray option.
DISCLAIMER: These compressed and resized screen captures are decorative and do not represent this title's native 480p resolution.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds fine under the circumstances. Dialogue is crisp without fighting for attention, while a modest amount of channel separation gives song-driven moments and action sequences a decent amount of punch. My only complaint is that the volume levels are cranked a little high, particularly during the theme song; music-savvy parents might agree that the term "brickwalled" applies here. But it's doubtful that this problem is exclusive to the DVD, so it's impossible to punish the wrong culprit. Unfortunately, no English subtitles or Closed Captions are present during any of these seven episodes, but optional French and Spanish dubs are offered during the first four adventures. Again, no bonus features are included...hardly surprising at this point.
Nickelodeon's popular PAW Patrol is good, harmless fun in small doses, which is exactly what you'll get with their painfully short and sporadic DVD collections. At less than 80 minutes total, Pups Save Christmas offers a few holiday and snow-themed adventures that newer fans should enjoy, plus at least one ("Pups Save Sports Day") that plays more like a random bonus episode. Yet the fun's over awfully fast here, enough so that only those who'll be watching this more than a few times (or regularly, during the holidays) should bother with a purchase. Casual fans---or those who have seen most of these episodes already---might try Amazon's HD downloads, if anything. Paramount's DVD offers reliably good A/V specs, but the lack of bonus features doesn't help. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.