With an interestingly loose approach to DC Universe lore, the animated DC League of Super-Pets is a quirky entry in the DC Universe filmography. While it may rely a bit much on animation story cliches as a wacky group of misfits come together and find out they can do anything, the bursts of humour make up for it. It’s a film that puts an amusing spin on DC mythology and the silly notion of Superhero pets leads to wild bits of colourful animated action. Most enjoyably, there’s a Justice League team here that is more fun than two versions of the actual Justice League movie.
Rocketed to Earth along with the infant Kryptonian, Kal-El, is the loyal dog, Krypto (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) who grows up to become the assistant crimefighter, best friend and faithful companion to Superman (John Krasinski). But their perfect bachelor life may be shattered when Superman proposes to Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) and Krypto is sure his master will abandon him. Meanwhile, in a pet shelter there is a fast-talking dog, Ace (Kevin Hart), a slow turtle (Natasha Lyonne), a hyperactive squirrel (Diego Luna), a potbellied pig (Vanessa Beyer) and a conniving guinea pig, Lulu (Kate McKinnon). When Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) brings a kryptonite rock to Earth to try to destroy the Justice League he is defeated because the rock doesn’t give him superpowers. But the rock does give pets superpowers so Lulu, Lex’s former test subject, makes herself an unstoppable force for evil and kidnaps the Justice League. But she accidentally gives the other pets powers while Krypto has his powers taken away. Now the super-pets must save the Justice League and defeat Lulu but that may prove difficult when the pets can’t use their powers properly.
Super-Pets cribs from different aspects of DC continuity for a unique take. Krypto the Super-Dog in the comics originated in the 1950s and has had multiple different versions. This version of Krypto is a co-crimefighter alongside Superman; as Supes fights crime Krypto is right with him. The version of the Justice League takes elements from Justice League across the years; Aquaman looks a bit like the Jason Momoa version, but he also has a hook hand from the 90s comics. He’s also voiced rather amusingly by Jemaine Clement as kind of a dope. The Green Lantern of the team is a new Jessica Cruz character, and Wonder Woman and her invisible jet is prominent in the film, something that has been downplayed recently. Also, everyone keeps walking into the invisible jet which is fun.
The best Justice League member continues to be Batman and Keanu Reeves hilariously provides the voice. He has the extreme mopey attitude of Batman as he randomly interjects that he misses his parents or badly cover up his secret identity. He’ll say Batman works alone and then list off his numerous sidekicks like Robin, Commissioner Gordon and “whoever Morgan Freeman played”. Maron’s Lex Luthor is also extremely confident and wears the purple power suit and his assistant is Mercy Graves, another pull from DC continuity. While the Justice League aren’t the movie’s main characters at all, it’s fun to see a wacky animated take on them.
But the real focus is the mismatched League of Super-Pets, and while a group of misfits saving the day has been extremely played out in animation, it works here. Hart may be a wee bit guilty of ripping off his own previous films and he played a superhero obsessed bunny in Secret Life of Pets 2, and Ace here is a superhero dog. Ace’s backstory about how he ended up in the pet shelter is unexpectedly tragic. He’s the bad dog of the group while the heroic depowered Krypto desperately tries to get them to work as a team. Johnson’s vocal performance as Krypto is energetic and the animation is expressive. He has a funny bit where he thinks about tossing Lois into the ocean so he can keep Superman and then Krypto goes “Nah.” The other super-pets deliver yuks, like the Turtle who is randomly bleeped for swearing, Luna’s hyperactive squirrel has some good freakouts, and the shape shifting pig often causes mayhem. There’s a fun running gag when the pets are talking to their owners in English, but it cuts to them just barking loudly.
The baddie of the movie is Lulu and when she’s superpowered she’s a combination of Lex Luthor and General Zod. Like Lex, she lost all her hair due to experimentation with Kryptonite which is another random pull from DC history. McKinnon’s Lulu sounds like a high-pitched aristocrat, over enunciating her plans as she is a super-smart guinea pig who outwits her former master Lex. In the film’s finale she is overpowered and enlarged with spikes on her arms and face, looking like the Superman killing villain Doomsday.
The grab bag approach to the DC universe gives DC League of Super-Pets its own distinctly zany charm. While the basic story has been done before in animated kids movies, the random pieces of the DC Universe are cool. With interesting voice performers and lots of jokes per second makes this an amusing, weird trip into the doghouse of DC.
DC League of Super-Pets
Director: Jared Stern
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Marc Maron, Keanu Reeves, Thomas Middleditch and Ben Schwartz