'DC League of Super-Pets' review: Animated adventure chases its own tail
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Made with the intention of indoctrinating young children to grow up and become DC Cinematic Universe fans, the intriguing on the surface, but tirelessly bland animated adventure “DC League of Super-Pets” is far from super. An extended, somehow-made-it-to-theaters feature length film that belongs on Cartoon Network or HBO Max, “Super-Pets” has plenty of decent ideas (what if Superman and Batman had cute doggies with powers!) except the premise never executes on its full potential. The film wags its tail and rubs all our noses in it. Add in the A-list star power of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart providing the main voices, which themselves deliver some comedic fodder, it’s a bummer “Super Pets” delivers a great big bowl of nothing sauce.
Directed and co-written by Jared Stern alongside John Whittington, who had a hand in crafting the far more memorable and hilarious “Lego” movies, desperately want “Super-Pets” to be in the same canon. There’s plenty of one-dimensional jokes about Batman’s parental issues (how many times have we heard that before), Lex Luthor’s innate obsession with kryptonite, and an array of well-timed though overdone quips about the Justice League (Aquaman enjoys fish food!). Those jokes, like most of the movie, are stale and even the deep comic book lore ingrained in the material to appease the adults won’t move the needle. I imagine any child below preschool age will just wish their parents would let them watch the real thing instead.
“Super-Pets” begins with promise: one that yarks back to the 1978 “Superman” where a puppy sized Kypto (voiced by Johnson) hopes aboard baby Kal-El’s ship to Earth. Fast forward 20-ish years and Kypto and Supes (voiced by John Krasinski) are enjoying the good life, fighting crime side-by-side in the city of Metropolis. All is dandy until Kyprto realizes he’s slowly being pushed aside by his master in favor of Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) and thus the super-pup faces a crisis about his place within Superman’s orbit.
This conflict eventually takes a back-seat while a nefarious guinea pig (Kate McKinnon, bringing those signature Saturday Night Live capabilities) unleashes new waves of kryptonite that gives herself and several other animals powers. Those include a boxer named Ace (Hart); a piggy who goes by PB (Vanessa Bayer); a squirrel called Chip (Diego Luna) and Merton (Natasha Lyonne), a foul mouthed, near-sighted turtle. Their powers range from super-speed, electromagnetic pulses, and the ability to shrink and grow in size. None of them are interesting, save for an adorable kitten who can, I kid you not, cough up a hairball grenade and whose tail can shoot missiles like torpedoes.
The crummy 3D animation lacks polish and it doesn’t help we’ve already gotten a superior climactic showdown with super-charged guinea pigs this year with “The Bad Guys” and those characters didn’t have powers! It’s no secret the DC brand has been in reset mode (more so now with a recent corporate ownership change), so the idea of opening this world up to young kids makes sense from a business perspective because they’ll be the next generation who keep the lights on. Yet if the straight-to-DVD quality of “DC League of Super-Pets” is any indication for future projects targeted at children, Warner Bros will have a lot more to worry about than a guinea pig with kryptonite.
DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS is now playing in theaters.