“DC League of Super-Pets”: Entertaining But Flawed Superhero Adaptation
There are several benefits to owning a pet. Studies have found that pet ownership improves mental and cardiovascular health. Pets provide companionship and sometimes help their owners in many unseen ways. Pets have been cherished members of their owners’ families since prehistory. The joy of owning a pet is the central theme of the imperfect but entertaining family-friendly superhero adaptation DC League of Super-Pets. This latest feature from Warner Animation Group is also the fourth theatrically-released cartoon so far this century to feature Batman as a central character and the fifth overall. Clearly there’s a market for Batman.
Baby Kal-El, joined by his Labrador puppy, is sent to Earth by his parents before their home planet of Krypton is destroyed. They grow up to become Superman (voiced by John Krasinski) and Krypto the Superdog (voiced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who use their Kryptonian superpowers to defend Earth from all sorts of dangers. One day, with the help of the Justice League, they stop Lex Luthor of LexCorp (voiced by Marc Maron) from using his tractor beam to bring an orange Kryptonite meteor to Earth to harness its power for evil.
At the same time, in an animal shelter, a guinea pig named Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon) builds herself a tractor beam. She is successful in bringing a piece of the orange meteor to Earth and escapes the shelter after bestowing herself, a Boxer named Ace (voiced by Kevin Hart), and the other pets in the shelter with superpowers. She uses her powers to capture Superman and the Justice League and neutralizes Krypto with Kryptonite. With no one left to stop Lulu, Krypto teaches Ace and the other pets to use their powers to take on Lulu and save the Justice League, and reminds us humans why we love the companionship of critters.
The film was written by Jared Stern and John Whittington, who also co-wrote 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie. Both films share similar styles of rapid-fire humor, though DC League of Super-Pets does not quite match the consistency of The Lego Batman Movie. Super-Pets also does not stand apart enough from more recent animated fare. Despite its flaws, the film is redeemed by visually impressive animation and the talents of its voice cast, which includes a hilarious Keanu Reeves as an overly brooding Batman and Natasha Leone as Mertle, a turtle who acquires super speed.
For those parents who may be apprehensive about their kids seeing darker, more violent films like The Batman or – God forbid – Morbius, Super-Pets is bright, lively, and mostly inoffensive. Some of the jokes come very close to PG-13, which the grown-ups will appreciate, but they remain over the heads of children enough to maintain its PG rating. Adults will also be amused by the film’s many references including an allusion to the 1982 experimental documentary Koyaanisqatsi, which has got to be one of the most esoteric movies to be referenced in a kids’ flick. Adults will also appreciate the film’s soundtrack, which includes bangers by Sturgill Simpson, A Tribe Called Quest, REM, and Queen.
DC League of Super-Pets is the fifth comic book adaptation to cross $100 million at the worldwide box-office so far this year. It still appears audiences can’t get enough superheroes, which may be bad news for those who are tired of Hollywood’s parade of pulp adaptations. Certainly, the film’s box-office haul will be good news to Warner Bros. Discover executives who, with the shelving of Batgirl and the legal troubles of The Flash star Ezra Miller, are struggling to stay competitive with the virtually unstoppable Marvel Cinematic Universe. For die-hard DC fans, DC League of Super-Pets is a satisfying appetizer before Black Adam and Shazam! Fury of the Gods are set to be released later this year.