MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Animated Superhero Comedy/Voices of: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Diego Luna, Thomas Middleditch, Ben Schwartz, Keanu Reeves, Marc Maron, Olivia Wilde, Jameela Jamil, Jemaine Clement, John Early, Daveed Diggs, Dascha Polanco, Keith David, Richard Arnold, Maya Erskine, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alfred Molina, Lena Headey, Busy Philipps, Dan Fogler/Runtime: 106 minutes
I think it is a fairly safe bet to make that although theatrically released live action comic book movies have been quite the rage for a while, we sadly have not had nearly as many in the realm of animated cinema. Thankfully, we now see that DC Comics has chosen to rectify this with their newest slice of cinema, DC League of Super-Pets, which makes the choice to bring the adventures of a pack of super powered critters in the same universe as such iconic DC heroes as Superman and Batman to the big screen. Yet although families are easily who this movie is aiming to please, we also see that it also does a wonderful job of giving movie goers a terrific blend of action, comedy, and Easter Eggs for the characters galore thus also making this a film that is just as much for the fans as well. Suffice it to say that this film might have some quirks, but it still is able to be a quite enjoyable movie that, with the aid of engaging work on both sides of the camera to say nothing of some riveting action and a wonderfully goofy sense of humor, plays very much like a delightfully old-school superhero cartoon one might have seen on a Saturday morning back in the day.
The plot is as follows: An extremely loose adaptation of a superhero team known as the Legion of Super-Pets that first came together in the long ago year of 1962 despite the fact that the individual members had been around for longer than that, our slice of cinema’s superheroic narrative gets underway at a very familiar spot for DC fans and just comic book fans in general. That being on the planet Krypton just before it decided to go boom! However, when an infant Kal-El is about to hurtled off into the vast reaches of outer space on his baby rocket (that’s a thing I just came up with), we see that his baby puppy Krypto also makes his way into the ship so the infant lad doesn’t have to be alone wherever he winds up. Years later we see on a little planet known as Earth that Krypto and Clark, now known as a certain superhero called Superman, are the best of friends who manage to spend nearly every waking moment together doing everything together from saving Metropolis on a daily basis to simple things like going on flights together (you know normal human-animal bonding). Yet we soon see that Clark is also starting to form a relationship with a woman by the name of Lois Lane. One that soon results in Clark not spending nearly as much time with our 4-legged hero much to the latter’s barely even worth disguising blend of jealousy, disdain, and contempt. Unfortunately for our dog wonder, we see that things are about to get worse. This is because a scheming hairless guinea pig by the name of Lulu, having gained superpowers from a piece of orange kryptonite, has decided she wants to become baddie BFF’s with her former “owner” Lex Luthor only to find that Supes and Krypto have imprisoned him. Thus wanting to free him from his imprisonment so they can take over the world together, we see that Lulu, with the aid of her own little army, manages to make off with the iconic superhero squad known as the Justice League and subsequently imprisons them so there will be no one around to interfere with her evil plan. Yet despite Krypto trying his best to save the day, we soon see that he is unable to due to a piece of green kryptonite he ingested sapping him of his powers. However fear not dear reader since there is a group of animals who might be able to help out due to inadvertently acquiring their own superpowers during all this chaos. They are an emotionally guarded fellow canine named Ace, a kind pig by the name of PB, a fidgety and anxious squirrel named Chip, and a turtle with vision problems named Merton. Thus can these animals come together as a team and save everyone? Will Krypto learn to work well with others? Is there a post-credits scene? Suffice it to say these things and more I will leave for you to discover for yourself dear reader…..
Now it is by no means an easy feat in order to give a slice of cinema like this a narrative that not only has some legit stakes to it, but that also is unwilling to take any bit of it grimly serious, but this slice of cinema’s creative team behind the camera is able to do just that. Sure, I guess it doesn’t hurt that some of the people behind the camera are skilled at tone balancing acts in prior cinematic projects of theirs. As a result, this slice of cinema is one that is skilled at being both engaging and fairly self-aware in equal measure. Perhaps the best example of this behind the camera is how this film has a screenplay that delights in giving the kids in the audience Paw Patrol jokes whilst also throwing out (I kid you not) phrases from Nightmare on Elm Street and The Warriors for the adults. Along with that, it should be said that praise must be given to both the art department and production design teams for actually being in agreement creatively (for once) on the take of the DC Universe they want to present us with. Indeed, of all the Earths that must exist, this Earth is one where Metropolis looks both 20th and 22nd century and where Lex Luthor has no qualms about rocking bright green armor and firing purple blasts at his enemies. Suffice it to say that it is a style that is not only perfectly on-point with the relaxed tone of the comedic bits and the vocal performances by this slice of cinema’s immensely talented cast, but is also wonderfully weaved through every aspect of this slice of cinema as well. Ultimately though, if there is one avenue where this slice of cinema functions the best, it would be in the fact that this is one slice of superhero cinema that does a wonderful job of really placing a fair amount of emphasis on the iconic spot that the characters in this film reside in terms of the tapestry of pop culture. Indeed their backstories to say nothing of iconic pieces of their uniforms are so engrained into the world around us that we really don’t need to see an explanation for either of those things every single time one of these characters is in a movie. As a result, we see that this makes things a lot more simple to immerse one’s self into a slice of cinema that has no ties whatsoever to any other cinematic DC property whilst also managing to be a wonderful blend of emotional and comedic in equal measure. Even with that in mind though, you should know that there are quite a few wonderful winks and nods for those of you who are have watched more than your fair share of DC adaptations. Yet when you also take the time, like this film does, to incorporate these nods into a fairly riveting narrative about working with others, and the powers of friendship and loyalty, what you get is a slice of cinema that will be a wonderful film for both the die-hard DC Comics fanatic as well the younger movie goer who is just being introduced to these legendary characters for the first time in equal measure.
Of course, the big thing that distinguishes this slice of cinema is the absolutely phenomenal and quite stacked cast that they have gotten for the characters in this and each and every one of them in their own way is a pure delight. Indeed in the lead role of Krypto, we get a winning performance from Dwayne Johnson. No this is not on the same caliber of Johnson’s vocal turn as Maui from 2016’s Moana, but Johnson still brings his trademark charm and heart to say nothing of a delightfully snarky sense of humor to this role and makes the character of Krypto one that could easily have become a downright annoying character, but instead proves by film’s end one that you not only understand and empathize with in regards to where he is coming from, and that you are also rooting for as this slice of cinema goes along. We also get a terrific performance from Kevin Hart in the role of fellow canine Ace. Indeed I know that Johnson and Hart were sadly not in the recording booth together at the same time due to COVID protocols, but even with that in mind there really is no denying that he and Hart have a chemistry that, 4 collaborations in, is just something genuinely special to behold to the point that the back and forth that the two share in this slice of cinema will have you and your younger movie goers rolling in your seats with laughter. Yet even with that in mind, there is no denying that on his own Hart still manages to do a great job both in moments of comedy and emotion as this gruff dog who has a heart of gold, but who has to keep walls up due to heartache that he has endured in the past. Of course, backing this dynamic duo up are a collection of support performances that are all really spot-on including, but not limited to, a delightfully acerbic Natasha Lyonne whose moments where her character feels the urge to just spout out certain words are met by a hilarious response on the part of the film, John Krasinski who does such a wonderfully on-point vocal performance as Superman that I am now really wondering why he hasn’t given us more vocal turns as the Man of Steel in the past, and Kate McKinnon who, in the role of main antagonist Lulu, manages to be an absolutely delightful mix of both over-the-top villainy as well as genuine menace respectively. Out of everyone though, perhaps my favorite performance in the whole film would have to be Keanu Reeves as Batman. Indeed it may not be the biggest part in the movie, but Reeves does a wonderful job of deploying both a fairly expressionless personality as well as a delightfully dry comedic delivery in regards to everything from the situation the heroes find themselves stuck in all the way to Superman’s choice of dog toys for Krypto. Suffice it to say I have always enjoyed Reeves as an actor, but if he ever gets tired of gunning people down left and right as John Wick then please Warner Brothers take advantage and cast him as Batman in more animated slices of cinema like this because he is perfect in the role.
All in all there may be a few flaws to be found with this slice of animated superhero cinema, but you know what dear reader? I still found myself really enjoying this movie all the same. Indeed the jokes and gags that land on target are actually quite clever, the music is appropriately rousing and grand, the superheroics on display are wonderfully engaging, the voice cast is an absolutely terrific collection of performers, the multitude of winks and nods on display are lovingly done by a group of people who are clearly passionate about the source material, and there is even a message or two for the kids so they can walk away having learned something in addition to being wonderfully entertained. Sure there is an attempt to make your waterworks run in overdrive in a manner (without going into spoilers) that is similar to a certain moment from Pixar’s Toy Story 2 and that doesn’t work nearly as well as it did there (though not for lack of effort), but honestly who am I to quibble? Suffice it to say that the creative teams both behind and in front of the camera have managed to give us something truly (dare I say it?) superheroic. That being that this slice of cinema is one that is fun for the kids, engaging for an adult who is either curious enough to see this on their own or who has been roped into taking the kids since they still have a couple of weeks before school starts and you don’t want them to destroy the house any more than they already have this summer, and an absolute joy for those among you who have been fans of these legendary characters and/or the iconic comic book company of which they are a part for quite a while now. Make of that dear reader what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give DC League of Super-Pets “2022” a solid 3.5 out of 5.