Film Review: DC League of Super-Pets
DC League of Super-Pets
Director: Jared Stern
DC Entertainment and Seven Bucks Productions
In Theaters 07.29
It’s a major pet peeve of mine that in the age of four or five major superhero-based films per year, we never get any that you can take the kids to see, despite the fact that most of us developed an affinity for these stories in our childhood. As such, DC League of Super-Pets, the new feature from Warner Animation and director Jared Stern, automatically wins points for bringing along some powerful pets to pacify my peevishness.
DC League of Super-Pets begins with a familiar sequence for fans of comic book films: the destruction of the planet Krypton and the journey of the child Kal-El to earth, where he will become Superman. This time, however, we see the toddler’s loyal dog, Krypto, jump into the small ship just before launch, unable to bear being separated from the boy. As they both grow into adulthood, with Superman voiced by John Krasinski and Krypto by Dwayne Johnson, they share a life together, as well as all the same powers. The bond between them is stronger than steel, and nothing could come between them—except perhaps Superman’s romance with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped by a new supervillain, a laboratory Guinea Pig-turned-mad scientist named Lulu (Kate McKinnon), Krypto must save them by assembling a team of pets from an animal shelter, who all gain superpowers thanks to Lulu. There’s an indestructible Boxer named Ace (Kevin Hart), who comes with his own tragic backstory; a potbellied pig named PB (Vanessa Bayer of Saturday Night Live), who can grow to giant-size; a turtle named Merton (Natasha Lyonne), who gains super speed and a squirrel named Chip (Diego Luna), who can shoot lightning from his paws. Together, this unlikely group of heroes are mankind’s best friend and best hope.
DC League of Super-Pets is fun and creative, and director and co-writer Stern (Green Eggs and Ham) knows a lot about making kiddie fare that will keep adults from getting bored. The action sequences are exciting and the film moves at a brisk pace. It’s the characters that make this one such a charmer, however, with Johnson and Hart bringing a lot to their respective roles. Anyone who has ever owned or loved a dog is likely to feel a connection with Krypto, and the story of Ace’s past packs an emotional punch that’s a Toy Story-level tearjerker.
That’s not to say that DC League of Super-Pets is on the level of classic Pixar as a whole, or that it’s trying to be. There’s no question that this is a movie to be enjoyed as a family, with the little ones as the target audience. I’m not saying it can go toe to toe with Turning Red, I’m saying that it easily beats Minions or Paws of Fury and then some. In fact, it’s arguably a better Justice League movie than either version of the live-action takes, with at least a far more coherent story than Joss Whedon’s messy theatrical cut and without the insufferable pomp and padding of Zack Snyder’s epic streaming cut. Stern also clearly has a love for the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, evoking them every chance he gets, and there are some sly jokes for comic book fans. The voice cast is charming all around, and among the highlights are Krasinki’s Superman and Keanu Reeves as Batman. It’s great to see the perennially misused McKinnon getting a film character that’s even close to being in the same league as the ones she played on SNL, and I’m going to go further and say that this may be her first truly good movie.
As much as I enjoyed Thor: Love and Thunder, I’d have to say that DC League of Super-Pets is the most consistently satisfying superhero movie to come out this year, one that knows its audience and delivers everything that they could want. If you’ve ever felt frustrated and silly about telling your kid that they can’t go see Spider-Man or The Batman, struggling to explain why they are just for grownups, this movie is pure gold. DC League of Super-Pets the movie is the superhero movie that we need, and the one that our kids deserve.–Patrick Gibbs
Read an interview with Jared Stern:
Showrunner Jared Stern Talks Green Eggs and Ham: The Second Serving
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