Animal helpers in superhero stories are usually meant to provide a little comedic relief and a chance to sell more toys. At best, they might end up with a plotline where they are ignored and underestimated by a villain until they rescue the human heroes from their final predicament. Warner Bros.’ new animated theatrical feature DC League of Super Pets embraces those tropes while putting a whole new spin on them: a plot driven by an evil animal sidekick seeking to save a supervillain’s thwarted plan. That clever twist on a silly concept makes for a surprisingly sweet and funny movie that is absolutely packed with lightning-fast jokes designed to appeal to animal lovers and DC Comics diehards alike.
Kate McKinnon disappears into the role of Lulu, a literal guinea pig for Lex Luthor’s diabolical experiments at his company Lexcorp, which left her with all of her fur and seemingly imbued with superintelligence. Rescued from captivity and dropped off at an animal adoption center by Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), a Kryptonian dog with the same powers as his best friend, Superman (John Krasinski), Lulu attempts to continue the plot Luthor (Marc Maron) was working on to gain superpowers. to get. Her shockingly successful plan has the side effect of also granting powers to a group of bad luck at the shelter, four animals who join Krypto to save Metropolis.
Lulu is a hybrid between Animansmegalomaniac mouse The Brain and Luthor, whom she considers her mentor and colleague. (They even share the same condition: baldness as a result of a failed experiment.) Her misguided affection makes her the perfect enemy for Krypto, who questions his own devotion to Superman as the hero begins spending more time with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) by to bring. Krypto has been part of the Superman canon since the 1950s, and DC League of Super Pets offers an especially sweet new take on its original story, depicting him as a family puppy so desperate to protect baby Kal-El that he jumps into the baby’s escape rocket and licks away his tears as they fly to Earth together.
Dwayne Johnson brings the same charm and seriousness to the role that has made him a fixture in family movies. As Superman, Krasinski fits that attitude; this take on the Big Blue Boy Scout wants only the best for everyone. When he discovers that Krypto has assembled an animal team to rescue him, Superman’s reaction is not relief for himself, but joy that his dog has finally made friends. He explains that to the rest of the Justice League with such adorable enthusiasm that they all cringe. After the brooding, distant versions of the character in Superman is coming back and the DCEU movies, it’s refreshing to see such a light-hearted version of the character on the big screen.
His optimism stems from the fact that although he is Krypton’s last son, he is never alone in this version of his story. As Kal-El’s parents point out as Krypto makes his way into the rocket, “Our boy needs a friend.” But while Superman has found love with Lois and camaraderie in the Justice League (which Krypto scornfully calls “work friends at his best”), Krypto has an obsession with his boss as the only meaningful person in the world. Krypto may try to fit in with other dogs – which he hilariously does by donning glasses and assuming his secret identity, “Bark Kent” – but he doesn’t find much to talk about when most of their adventures exist eat out their own vomit and bite the FedEx guy. His loyal devotion to Superman is accompanied by jealousy and resentment when his super owner cares about someone else.
Accepting change and embracing the power of friendship are hardly new themes for a children’s film, but director and co-writer Jared Stern presents them with the real sweetness of a Toy Story. movie, complete with charming musical montages like Krypto and Superman repeatedly saving the day set to Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend”. The theme of trusting yourself is executed more clumsily, as the newly minted Super-Pets each get their own half-baked bow.
Their de facto leader, Ace (Kevin Hart), who has a tragic backstory that perfectly matches Batman (Keanu Reeves), takes on the default role of the Dark Knight as Superman’s defender; he’s a more jaded, more worldly counterpart to Krypto’s boundless enthusiasm. Ace the Bat-Hound’s comedic debut took place at the same time as Krypto’s, but Stern and co-writer John Whittington largely set their own course for the rest of the animal crew, which may be why they’re so much less resonant. to be.
The neurotic squirrel Chip (Diego Luna) is at least harmless. Loosely based on the short-lived Golden Age DC character The Terrific Whatzit, the nearly blind turtle Merton is distractedly voiced by russian doll‘s Natasha Lyonne plays the same character she always does, but her expletives bleed them out. Even worse is PB (Vanessa Bayer), an insecure pot-bellied pig with a raspy voice and a Wonder Woman obsession. (In one of the deeper DC versions of the film, the character was inspired by Wonder Pig, from a one-off episode of Justice League Unlimited.)
The powerful hero moments that the writers put in for each of these minor characters are largely dropped. On the other hand, super-petsmakers successfully save time by breaking down the rest of the Justice League into comic archetypes, such as Aquaman (Jemaine Clement), who enthusiastically gobbles up fish food when held captive in a tank, and Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), who is a walking joke is about the shortcomings of the technology. Stern and Whittington previously collaborated as writers on The Lego Batman Movieso it’s not surprising that they bring the same level of hard love to Reeves’ beautifully melodramatic Batman.
Like with The Lego Batman Moviethe best part of DC League of Super Pets is the writers’ deep knowledge and love of the source material, which they use to keep the film moving with clever jokes and even more brilliant callbacks. A highlight is an inexplicable holographic recording of Krypto’s father, Dog-El, who offers important advice such as “Don’t eat chocolate.” There are plenty more jokes for the well-known comic book fans, such as a Justice League hotline that asks callers to press buttons based on whether they are trying to contact Earth-1 or Earth-2, and a Big Belly Civilian in downtown Metropolis that perishes in the fighting.
Leaning into the superhero genre also makes it possible DC League of Super Pets to avoid the crude humor that all too often drives children’s films. Stern plays with those expectations through Lulu’s kitten Lieutenant Whiskers, who has been transformed into a living arsenal capable of generating weapons from her body. During her big fight with the Super-Pets, she begins to chop up a hairball, but eventually spits out a grenade, which she gleefully tosses at her opponents. This is definitely a kids movie made for adults, with dark jokes like TV coverage of Luthor’s arrest with the puzzled caption “A rich person actually goes to jail.”
DC League of Super Pets is also visually stunning, delivering beautiful scenes from the surprisingly dramatic destruction of Krypton to the skyscrapers of Metropolis. The fight scenes are dynamic and well choreographed, especially the Justice League’s first removal of a power-armored version of Luthor, with the stakes of the conflict ever-changing.
The popularity of superhero movies among teens and adults has prompted the genre to take on darker and more mature themes. It’s refreshing to see the joy that can be brought back to comic book stories when they just deal with simpler things and can lean on serious heroes and maniacal villains. DC League of Super Pets isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a perfect way for DC Comics fans to introduce their kids to their favorite characters and their adorable and surprisingly competent sidekicks.
DC League of Super Pets opens in cinemas from July 29.