The new animated superhero comedy “DC League of Super-Pets” has a lot of star power in its voice cast. But I wasn’t drawn to it by the two leads, Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart. Instead, it was the thought of John Krasinski as Superman and Keanu Reeves as Batman that had me giggling all the way to the theater.
Ok, so that may be exaggerating a bit. It wasn’t just Krasinski and Reeves. I’m actually a proud DC fan so that alone offered some allure. And I do like several other names in the cast including Diego Luna, Daveed Diggs, Keith David, Alfred Molina, and Lena Headey, But while I do sometimes get a kick out of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a little of Kevin Hart’s brand of comedy goes a long way with me. And the tendency of modern-day, big studio animation to follow the same general formula always leaves me a little hesitant.
But I decided to give “DC League of Super-Pets” a try, and I ended up leaving the theater straddling the fence just as much as I was going in. This is the definition of an ok movie – one with as many ups as downs and strengths as weaknesses. It’s the kind of film that will probably have enough to please kids and tried-and-true animated fans. But for anyone looking for something outside the box, “Super-Pets” doesn’t have much fresh to offer.
Following a delightful opening that does a little rewriting of Superman’s origin, the story settles down in Metropolis where the Man of Steel/Clark Kent’s faithful pet and best friend Krypto (Johnson) has grown jealous of his owner’s growing relationship with ace Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). Believing his canine buddy could use a friend, Clark visits an animal shelter. Among the rescue pets inside is an outspoken boxer named Ace (Hart), an insecure potbellied pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), an antsy squirrel Chip (Luna), a nearsighted turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne), and a hairless guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon).
But before Clark can pick out a new companion for the clingy Krypto, he spots his nemesis Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) pulling a meteorite full of orange kryptonite from the sky. Supposedly, rather than draining powers from heroes, orange kryptonite imbues its wielder with super-human abilities. Superman and Krypto set off to stop Luthor, but in the ensuing fight Lulu (Lex’s former lab rat and pupil) manages to secure a shard from the orange kryptonite granting her superpowers which she uses to capture Superman and the rest of the Justice League. What she doesn’t notice is that the shard also grants the other animals in the shelter with new powers.
A helpless Krypto, zapped of his abilities after being slipped some green kryptonite by Lulu, seeks the help of the newly empowered rescue pets to save Supes, the misanthropic Batman (Reeves), Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), The Flash (John Early), Cyborg (Diggs), and Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (Dascha Polanco). Meanwhile, the megalomaniacal Lulu puts together a super-powered guinea pig army (What’s the deal? This is second straight animated movie I’ve watched featuring a guinea pig army) leading to the inevitable big final-act showdown.
While “Super-Pets” has its moments, it’s ultimately little more than another Johnson/Hart vehicle. The movie leans too heavily on the duo’s well-worn schtick often at the expense of their characters. I get they’re big names and having them on the poster draws a lot of eyes. But this is a case where more seasoned voice actors with lower profiles would have helped. This is most glaring with Johnson. Too often when watching Krypto all I could sense was the Rock voicing a pup. It’s hard to shake.
Then there is the story itself. Directed and co-written by Jared Stern, “Super-Pets” has its sweet touches such as PB the pig’s Justice League fangirling or the flashback to Ace’s sad puppyhood. There are also some genuinely funny bits like Krypto’s conversations with a hologram of his late father, Dog-El (Keith David) and anytime Batman is on the screen. How is this the first time Keanu Reeves has voiced the Caped Crusader? Not only is Bats the film’s best written character, he’s also the best voiced. Sadly, he’s barely in the movie.
But not everything with the story works. Take its near mechanical structure which hops from point to point, hitting its predestined marks and painting characters in broad strokes rather than giving them any meaningful depth. Some of the jokes land, especially those poking fun at the traditional superhero formula. Others feel lazy, like the occasionally potty-mouthed Merton having to be bleeped-out for no other reason than the writers think its funny. And the humor really dries up during a rather tedious middle stretch where it becomes evident that there isn’t much underneath the film’s clever conceit.
While “Super-Pets” often feels like an attempt to cash in on the superhero craze, it still touches on some worthy themes such as friendship, teamwork, and finding one’s self-confidence. And while the hyper-smoothed textureless animation is hardly wow-worthy, the film still manages to pull you into its world. If only there was more to it for us to take in. Oh, and more of Keanu Reeves’ Batman. “DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theaters.
If only Keanu WAS real Batman!
He’s the best thing about this one. Too bad he’s barely in it.
I have no interest in this other than Keanu as Batman. I’m so over the Crock and Kevin Hart as a duo.
Same here. Reeves is a blast. Unfortunately you can count the minutes of his screen time on one hand.
Oh shit. BOO!!!! That is insulting to someone like Keanu.
It was disappointing. He’s sooo freaking funny in the few scenes he’s given.
It sounds like yet another kid-movie-of-the-week, with nothing special to offer. It would really be nice if Hollywood let some actual voice actors get their big break and have some of these roles. I don’t know if parents take their kids to the movies based on who is doing the voices, but somewhere along the way the rich got richer and leading actors always get to do these voiceovers instead of letting new, possibly just as talented other voices be discovered.
I’m seeing the movie in September
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