Film review: DC League of Super-Pets

Fun for kids without being painful for grown-ups, film makes a protagonist out of Superman’s super-dog Krypto

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As multiversal maybes go, this one’s sweet and simple: What if Superman had a dog?

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Now before you start with the angry letters, I know. A quick skip through Wikipedia informs me that the canine Krypto is somehow even older than I am, having first appeared in Adventure Comics in March of 1955, and subsequently showing up in various media including the recent animated feature film Teen Titans Go! To The Movies.

But he’s never been as front and centre as in DC League of Super-Pets, a tongue-in-cheek animated adventure in which (super) man’s best friend has to rescue the man of steel from the clutches of – an evil hairless guinea pig? Don’t worry: It’ll all make sense eventually.

The film opens by imagining that Superman (John Krasinski) is about to pop the question to Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) is horrified, his panic only multiplied when Supes visits an animal shelter to find a new friend for “Bark Kent.”

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This scene also serves to introduce us to the pet-shop boys and girls, including a boxer named Ace, voiced by Kevin Hart, a potbellied pig (Vanessa Bayer), a turtle (Natasha Lyonne) and a red squirrel (Diego Luna). All they want is to be adopted or, failing that, to escape. Ace has it in his head that “a farm in upstate New York” is a real place and a lovely one at that.

The shelter is also home to Lulu (Kate McKinnon), a hairless guinea pig (awww, they’re call skinny pigs!) bent on world domination. Talk about Pinky and the Brain. She’s both. And once she gets her paws on a piece of orange Kryptonite from a meteor lassoed by Lex Luthor (Marc Maron), she gains the powers necessary to make her plan a reality. Standing in her way are all the other animal-shelter inhabitants, who have been similarly granted superpowers, just as Krypto has temporarily lost his.

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The resulting shenanigans hit the sweet spot of family-friendly animation, fun for kids without being painful for their parents. In fact, if you’re a quick reader there are numerous little jokes that pop up in signage and on TV screens, like a news channel crawl that states: “Animal rights activists honestly confused.” Or a billboard promoting Lois’s journalism: “Pick a Lane, buddy!”

There’s also a wealth of voice talent involved in even the smallest roles, including Daveed Diggs, Jemaine Clement, Jameela Jamil and Keanu Reeves as, respectively, Cyborg, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Batman. Yes, these are secondary characters in the newest, decidedly PG offering from DC Entertainment. And rather than batarangs or, I don’t know, entering the speed force, Super-Pets relies on animal smarts and an attack move known as the solar paw punch, though I think the filmmakers missed the opportunity to call it a Sun Dog.

That’s a minor quibble, mind you. DC League of Super-Pets is good cuddly fun, and a fine answer to the perennial good-versus-evil query: Who’s a good boy?

DC League of Super-Pets opens July 29 in theatres.

3.5 stars out of 5

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