Movie Review: ‘DC League of Super-Pets’

Director: Jared Stern

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, Josh Krasinski, Keanu Reeves, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Olivia Wilde, Jameela Jamil, Jemaine Clement, Daveed Diggs

Plot: Krypto, the super-powered pet dog of Superman, is a loyal friend and companion. When Superman and the Justice League are captured, Krypto must learn to work with a group of newly empowered shelter animals to save the day.

Review: Given the glut of superhero movies rolled out over the past two decades it’s astounding that it took this long for an animal based movie aimed at kids to reach cinemas. DC have managed to get a star-studded adventure based on the League of Super-Pets out before Marvel turned out a Pet Avengers, a rare case of the flailing cinematic universe getting the jump on the competition. So long as it doesn’t wind up being an animated counterpoint to the regular Justice League.

Stylistically the movie looks pretty good. It’s a bright, friendly universe with rounded edges and exaggerated body proportions. It’s so kid friendly that they act weirdly coy about a plot thread wherein Krypto (Johnson) needing to poop something out (weird in that one character has a running joke where they keep swearing but they drew the line here). It’s perfectly geared towards the younger members of the audience who recognise the famous heroes even if they couldn’t tell you the backstory. The producers have played pretty fast and loose with the lore. Ace the Bat-Hound (Hart), typically depicted as not having powers, gains the power of invulnerability in this universe, and the team of Super-Pets are made up of reworked versions of Ch’p (Luna), the Terrific Whatzit (Lyonne) and original character PB (Bayer).

After escaping to Earth with an infant Superman, Krypto has been a loyal partner and friend. When Superman wants to propose to Lois Lane (Wilde), Krypto does the comedic cliche routine of the jealous friend. This lapse allows the villain Lula (McKinnon)- a hairless guinea pig empowered through experiments in Lex Luthor’s lab – to attack Superman with kryptonite and imprison him along with Batman (Reeves) and the other heroes so she can reunite with Luthor (Maron). Also infected with kryptonite, Krypto seeks help from animal shelter escapees with newly developed powers. Ace cannot be hurt, Chip the squirrel fires bursts of electricity, PB the pig and change size and Terrific Whizhat is a high-speed turtle.

For a while it’s felt as though feature film animation only exists on two extreme ends of the quality spectrum. You’re either at the top end of Disney quality or the dredges of Illumination. Super-Pets defies the trend by being competent. There’s a couple of chuckles to be had, but the only big laughs came from Natasha Lyonne’s turtle dialogue being peppered with bleeped out swear words (again, weird choice). There’s plenty of action and sight gags to keep things ticking along. When Lula imbues a group of guinea pigs with powers we wind up with a good dozen or so characters at a time bouncing around the screens.

There’s also a massive amount of talent on display, with even small roles being filled by recognisable names. Jameela Jamil and Jemaine Clement are fun additions as Wonder Woman and Aquaman. John Krasinski and Keanu Reeves as Supermand and Batman is genius, and we want to see them play the characters in live action they’re such good fun in the roles. The stand out, however, is Kate McKinnon who is absolutely giving it her all in stark contrast to the tired and monotonous drone from Kevin Hart.

As a movie that will keep the kids happy for an afternoon…yeah, it’s not bad.

Rating: SIX out of TEN