Synopsis – Krypto the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime side by side in Metropolis. However, Krypto must master his own powers for a rescue mission when Superman is kidnapped.
My Take – Considering how live action adaptions of DC Comics properties have been mostly miss than hit in the past few years, there was little to no expectations from their latest offering, an big screen animated romp based on the superhero team Legion of Super-Pets. While I usually try to keep a lid over preconceived notions about any feature, but considering the marketing material Warner Animation Group had been putting out along with the star-studded voice cast attached, it was hard not to get opinionated about this one being a clear cash grab.
Admittedly, I was wrong, as the film succeeds in delivering big laughs with a massive heart at its center as it neatly ties itself up in 105 minutes, resulting in a big, albeit surprising, win for both DC and Warner Bros. Yes, this one was clearly produced with a young audience in mind, so the plot is simplistic and the themes surface level. But the humor is thankfully on point, the characters fun, and there are enough Meta jokes to keep the adults entertained. A poor man’s Secret Life of Pets this is not.
Here, Jared Stern, in his directorial debut, and co-writer John Whittington, bring along the deadpan sense of humor, frenetic action, and self-referential madness of their earlier collaboration, The Lego Batman Film (2017), making it a perfect platform for DC fans to introduce their kids to their favorite characters and their adorable and irresistible sidekicks.
Sure, the film doesn’t push the animation industry forward, and is certainly not aiming for the artistic highs of award-winning films, but instead acts as an anarchic callback to Saturday morning cartoons and soars on its own terms as a decent way to while away some time with your family this summer.
The story follows Krypto (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a Kryptonian Labrador Retriever, who as a puppy hitched a ride alongside the infant Kal-El as he was launched into space by his parents from the dying planet of Krypton, promising to look over him always. Years later, the pair share everything, including super powers, and are widely known as Krypto the Superdog and Superman (voiced by John Krasinski). But when Superman decides to take his relationship with Lois Lane (voiced by Olivia Wilde) up a level, Krypto starts to feel a little left out.
Concerned that the clingy, socially awkward Krypto will need a friend after he pops the question, Superman drags Krypto to a shelter where he encounters Ace (voiced by Kevin Hart), a dog’s dog, who had been bidding time in a cage by convincing his fellow shelter rejects the potbellied pig PB (voiced by Vanessa Bayer), the wizened turtle Merton (voiced by Natasha Lyonne), and the red squirrel Chip (voiced by Diego Luna), to look forward to nice life at a farm upstate.
The said rejects also includes a power-crazed, hairless guinea pig Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon), a former lab rat for evil billionaire Lex Luthor (voiced by Marc Maron) who’s determined to follow through on her beloved owner’s dastardly plans. And when she manages to get her hands on a piece of an orange kryptonite, a derivative of the deadly green kind that only works on animals, she manages to trap the Justice League, while accidentally turbocharging the abilities of the other shelter pets too.
Leaving a de-powered Krypto, who is comically bad at being a dog, to team up with this group of outcast super-powered pets to save his friend, and the whole world along the way.
It’s breezy stuff, but while the idea is entertainingly goofy, it puts a clever twist on a silly concept drives a surprisingly sweet and funny film that’s absolutely packed with rapid-fire jokes designed to appeal equally to pet-lovers and DC diehards. True to its animated predecessors, the film pulls off what other superhero entries have struggled to summon from the CGI universe: lighthearted fun and self-aware humor woven with real evergreen themes like the fear of change, learning to love friends through transitions, trusting that love will remain through the seasons.
Aimed at an even younger set the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to animated films about cute talking animals. But it’s got a zany comic sensibility that keeps things zipping along, whether letting loose with some classic Looney Tunes inspired antics designed to delight kids or winking at their parents with satirical jokes about Superman, Batman and the rest of DC’s slate of heroes. The characters aren’t the wittiest or cutting bunch and no doubt destined to be plush toys on store shelves soon, but there’s little reason to resist the cute.
Not only is it a good film in its own right, but it is also the closest to presenting its cast of character in a traditional and iconic fashioned. The Justice League are characterized as their former traditional self, only with Green Lantern and Aquaman been given a newer interpretation. And of course, Batman’s intensity is the butt of many jokes, even though the material is very kid friendly with a more comedic tone.
The film is also visually stunning, delivering gorgeous scenes from the surprisingly dramatic destruction of Krypton to the skyscrapers of Metropolis. The fight scenes are dynamic and well-choreographed, particularly the Justice League’s initial take down of Lex Luthor. Yes, accepting change and embracing the power of friendship are hardly novel themes for family films, but director Jared Stern and co-writer John Whittington presents them with the genuine sweetness of a Pixar film, complete with charming musical montages of Krypto and Superman.
Indeed, what the film lacks in originality it makes up for in enthusiasm, particularly from its star studded voice cast. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart continue to illustrate that they have rock solid chemistry. John Krasinski matches the Big Blue Boy Scout attitude. Keanu Reeves seems to be having a blast poking fun at the grizzled seriousness of Batman. Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, and Diego Luna are a riot. Kate McKinnon is having too much fun as her villainous guinea pig.
In other roles, Olivia Wilde, Marc Maron, Jameela Jamil, Jemaine Clement, John Early, Daveed Diggs, Dascha Polanco, Keith David, Yvette Nicole Brown, Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz do well. On the whole, ‘DC League of Super-Pets’ is a funny, warmhearted superhero flick that provides undemanding entertainment for family audiences.
Directed – Jared Stern
Rated – PG
Run Time – 105 minutes