On the one hand, it’s an ominous reflection of superhero fatigue that a movie about Superman’s dog is more fresh and enjoyable than anything the actual Man of Steel has done in decades.
On the other: He’s a good boy. He’s a very good boy.
“DC League of Super-Pets,” clunky name notwithstanding, is a pleasant diversion occurring outside of the canonic morass of the live-action DC franchise. The breezy comedy follows the exploits of Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), a similarly powered pooch who in this telling rocketed off of Superman’s doomed planet to watch over the young hero.
If nothing else, the film is a feat of voice casting. Key critters are voiced by Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, Diego Luna, Vanessa Bayer and a film-stealing Natasha Lyonne; superfolk voices include John Krasinski as Superman, Marc Maron as Lex Luthor, Jameela Jamil as Wonder Woman and Keanu Reeves as Batman (easily making the case that he probably should’ve donned the cowl at some point in his career — and it’s not too late).
Predictably, Krypto must rescue Superman when one of Luthor’s minions hatches an evil scheme; just as predictably, he must learn to appreciate the skills and quirks of his fellow super-pets to get the job done. Because it’s a movie involving dogs, there are at least two heartbreaking moments (don’t worry; none of the pets perish, and everyone winds up with a pet to snuggle).
“DC League of Super-Pets” does have the meta-jokes typical of prior superhero cartoons — when Batman begins listing all the people he relies on, he eventually names “whoever Morgan Freeman played” — though these are better executed in the likes of “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.” “Super-Pets” is more at home riffing on pet behavior, an area where it may surpass the allegedly popular “Secret Life of Pets” series; temporarily removing Krypto’s powers by hiding a piece of Kryptonite inside a hunk of cheese is an inspired bit.
Ultimately, it’s not quite impressive enough to rank as a must-see for all ages, and comic-book fans have seen it all before. A game voice cast and a decent number of good gags will make it more than tolerable, however, for parents schlepping their kids to the theater. A word of warning, though: If you don’t already have a pet at home, your children will demand one when the credits roll. (And they’ll be disappointed if that pet doesn’t have superpowers.)
My Rating: 6/10
“DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theaters.