A DC Comics movie about pets seems like a surefire choice for superhero cinema aimed at the younger crowd. The franchise already has a number of canonical animal sidekicks that have been used in various ways. Sometimes they’re along for the ride and sometimes they talk with their own cute adventures. DC League of Super-Pets is the latter.
In a way, there are parts of this premise that are pretty sweet. It was a pleasure to finally watch a more wholesome Superman (John Krasinski) on the big screen, something that feels like a distant memory at this point. We get the standard Superman origin story which establishes Kal-El being sent to Earth but not without his puppy. Cut to a grown-up Clark Kent living with his best boy Krypto (Dwayne Johnson). The two are cute as they do everything together, from playful days in the park to stopping criminals.
But those days may not remain the same. Krypto may have the same powers as Superman but he can’t speak the language of man nor can he read the direction Superman is headed. He has to learn from other dogs that his master is getting married to Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) and that it may mean there’s less time for the dog to enjoy quality time with the Man of Steel. Superman takes note of this and makes an attempt to find Krypto a friend.
Krypto will have to find some friends fast as Metropolis comes under attack by a new villain. Lex Luthor’s experimental guinea pig, Lulu (Kate McKinnon), has attained some orange kryptonite and now has telekinetic powers. With the Justice League captured and Krypto’s powers subdued by green kryptonite, he seeks the help of other super-powered pets.
The pets he befriends are in need of some guidance. Ace (Kevin Hart) is a hound who views himself as a leader but has trouble with admitting truths. PB (Vanessa Bayer) is a self-conscious pig who can grow or shrink to any size. Merton (Natasha Lyonne) is a vision-impaired turtle with the power to zip around at super-speeds. Chip (Diego Luna) is an insecure squirrel with the power of electricity. Together, they might just be able to defeat Lulu if they can work together.
While the film doesn’t have as many in-jokes as The LEGO Batman, it’s a pleasing enough DC Comics film for kids. While its humor kinda feels par for the course, it more than makes up for the routine ridiculousness by having a bigger heart. The character dynamic between the egotistical Krypto and the misfit animals is rather delightful and the ultimate resolve of togetherness is adorable enough melt my heart a bit.
Where the film runs into a bit of a mixed bag is the animation style. The pets all have great designs to be rather distinct. The humans, however, have a certain off nature with how they’re portrayed with big heads and thin limbs. For characters like Superman and Lex Luthor, they look fine. But there was just something bizarre about looking at characters like Cyborg and Aquaman with questionable exagerrations. Perhaps the only character who looks pleasing next to Superman is Jessica “Green Lantern” Cruz (Dascha Polanco).
While it takes a while to warm up, DC League of Super-Pets ultimately won me over enough to adore its absurdity. After a slew of dark and raunchy DC Comics projects, it was refreshing to have something this simple and sweet to remind the audience these heroes are for more than just adults. It’s also quite the surprise for the voice cast assembled on this film, considering I barely recognized Keanu Reeves in the role of Batman. It might be easy to compare this film to something The Secret Life of Pets for posing as more of a freewheeling talking pet movie. Thankfully, this film is in a whole other league that it soars past being mindless slapstick. Don’t worry though, kids; you’ll still get some funny gags of Ace running into an invisible jet, peeing for a long time, and commenting on Krypto’s poop.