DC LEAGUE OF SUPER PETS: 3 STARS. “cute characters and a handful of superlaughs.”
We all know that Jor-El and Lara, sent their infant son Kal-El to Earth minutes before their planet Krypton self-destructed. Less known is the story of Kal-El’s Kryptonian Labrador Retriever, the boy’s faithful best friend, who leapt into the Earth-bound spaceship to start a new life on the little blue planet third from the sun. “Look after our son,” Jor-El says as the ship careens out of sight in “DC League of Super Pets,” a new animated movie now playing in theatres.
When we meet them on Earth they are now settled in Metropolis and are known as Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman (John Krasinski) and Bark Kent a.k.a. Krypto (Dwayne Johnson). “I’m his ride or die,” Krypto brags. They live the lives of best friends, sharing an apartment, watching their favorite cooking shows on the Food Network and fighting crime. “My only friend is Superman,” Krypto sings to John Williams’ “Superman” theme. They are inseparable, except for the time Superman spends with his girlfriend, and Daily Planet reporter, Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde).
Sensing that Krypto needs a friend, Superman visits the local animal rescue, just as Ace (Kevin Hart), is making a run for it. In the cage above him is Lulu (Kate McKinnon), a hairless guinea pig who was once a test subject for Superman’s archenemy Lex Luthor (Marc Maron). The supervillain is experimenting with orange kryptonite, a variation of the green kryptonite that saps Superman’s powers.
In a battle of the superheroes and supervillains, Superman and Krypto are hobbled by green kryptonite while the orange kryptonite empowers Ace, Lulu and the other rescue animals. “I figured out something Lex didn’t know,” Lulu gloats. “Orange doesn’t work on people. It only works on pets!”
It is revealed that Lulu is an evil genius who, with the help of her newly recruited injustice squad, plans on reuniting with Luthor and putting an end to the work of the Justice Squad, Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), Aquaman (Jemaine Clement), The Flash (John Early), Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), Batman (Keanu Reeves) and Green Lantern (Dascha Polanco).
Now, it’s up to Krypto, with the help of Ace and the other super pets, to rescue Superman and the world savers.
“DC League of Super Pets” tries hard to mold the superhero movie formula into a kid-friendly shape. For much of the movie director Jared Stern succeeds. Supes and Krypto have a good ‘n goofy relationship, punctuated by funny banter and antics. Everyday chores, like dog walking are given a superhero spin as Superman and Krypto’s daily constitutional becomes a supersonic flight around the world, powered by their extranormal abilities.
Kids should also get a kick out of fun characters like McKinnon’s sarcastically sinister Lulu, the Natasha Lyonne-voiced Merton McSnurtle, the turtle with superspeed, and a cat who coughs up hand grenade furballs. Parents should appreciate the good life lessons about team work, sharing, learning by listening and being true to yourself to unlock your true powers, while getting a laugh out of the film’s more self-aware moments. “Every superhero struggles to learn their powers, “ says PB (Vanessa Bayer), a potbellied pig who can change size at will, “until they have their training montage.”
But, and there is a but, the movie eventually goes the way of all superhero movies and devolves into a loud, messy climax that feels as though it doesn’t line up with the kid friendly action that came before it.
“DC League of Super Pets” doesn’t have the same sense of fun as “The Lego Batman Movie,” and sticks too closely to the adult style of storytelling we’ve come to expect from superhero movies—there are even two after credit scenes—but it does deliver some cute characters and a handful of superlaughs.