DC League of Super-Pets is a surprisingly sharp supernatural satire

The companion animal games in superhero stories are mostly intended to provide a bit of comic relief and an opportunity to sell more toys. At best, they might get a plot line where the villain ignores and belittles them, until they rescue the human heroes from their final predicament. Warner Bros. New animated theatrical feature DC League of Super-Pets It embraces those metaphors while putting them on a whole new spin: a plot led by an evil animal friend who wants to save the villain’s botched plan. This clever twist on an absurd concept leads to a surprisingly sweet and funny movie full of quick jokes designed to appeal to pet lovers and DC Comics fans alike.

Kate McKinnon disappears as Lulu, a literal guinea pig in Lex Luthor’s demonic experiments with his company Lexcorp, causing her to lose all her fur and imbuing her with seemingly superhuman intelligence. Rescued from captivity and dropped into an animal adoption center by Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), a Kryptonian dog with the same powers as his best friend, Superman (John Krasinski), Lulu seeks to continue the plot that Luther (Mark Maron) has been working on to obtain supernatural powers. Her shockingly successful scheme has the side effect of granting powers to a group of difficult cases at the shelter, four animals who join the Krypto to save Metropolis.

Bald guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon) debuts a new invention in the DC League of Super-Pets

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Lulu is a mix between AnimaniacsThe paranoid mouse The Brain and Luthor, whom she considers her mentor and classmate. (They even share the same suffering: baldness due to an experience that went wrong.) Her misplaced affection makes her the perfect enemy of Crypto, who questions his loyalty to Superman as the hero begins spending more time with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). Krypto has been a part of the Superman canon since the 1950s, and DC League of Super-Pets It offers a particularly sweet remake of his original story, portraying him as a family pup so desperate to protect baby Cal-El that he jumps into the infant’s escape rocket and licks his tears as they fly to Earth together.

Dwayne Johnson brings the same charm and seriousness to the role that made him a staple in family movies. Like Superman, Krasinski matches this position; This Big Blue Boy Scout game wants nothing but the best for everyone. When he discovers that Krypto has assembled a team of animals to save him, Superman’s reaction doesn’t relieve himself, but he is happy that his dog has finally made some friends. He explains it to the rest of the Justice League members with a gentle enthusiasm that makes them all shiver. After contemplation, the distant versions of the character in Superman Returns And the DCEU movies, it’s refreshing to see such a playful version of the character on the big screen.

His optimism comes from the fact that while he may be the last of Krypton’s sons, in this version of his story, he is never alone. As Kal-El’s parents note when Krypto makes his way toward the rocket, “Our son will need a friend.” But while Superman found love with Lois and his companionship in the Justice League (which Krypto dismissively calls “work friends at best”), Krypto has an obsession with the dog’s view of his owner as the only meaningful person in the world. Krypto may try to adapt to other dogs—which he hilariously does by wearing a pair of glasses and assuming his secret identity, “Park Kent”—but he finds little to talk about when most of their adventures consist of eating their vomit and nibbling the FedEx guy. His loyal devotion to Superman comes with jealousy and resentment when his super owner cares about anyone else.

Accepting change and embracing the power of friendship aren’t new themes for a children’s movie, but director and co-writer Jared Stern brings them the true sweetness of a toy story. A complete movie with charming musical montages like Krypto and Superman that memorize over and over the day the Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” is set. The Belief in Yourself theme is implemented even more foolishly, with both newly made Super-Pets getting a half-baked arc.

Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) targets his new animal companions in a battle in the DC League of Super-Pets

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Their de facto leader, Ace (Kevin Hart), who has a tragic backstory that perfectly matches Batman (Keanu Reeves), takes on the standard role of the Dark Knight as a foil to Superman; It’s a more mundane and mundane counterpart to Krypto’s boundless enthusiasm. The comedy debut of Ace the Bat-Hound happened around the same time as Krypto, but Stern and co-writer John Whittington pretty much chart their own course for the rest of the animal crew, which may be why they resonate so much less.

The neurotic chipmunk (Diego Luna) is at least harmless. Based on the short-lived DC Golden Age character The Terrific Whatzit, the half-blind turtle Merton has been distractedly voiced by russian dollNatasha Lyonne plays the same character she’s always played, but with the sound of her swearing. Even worse is PB (Vanessa Bayer), an insecure-bellied pig with a rumbling voice obsessed with Wonder Woman. (In one of the DC movie’s deep cuts, the character was inspired by Wonder Pig, from a one-off episode of Unlimited Justice League.)

The empowering hero moments that the book crams for each of these secondary characters fall pretty short. on the other side, super petThe creators managed to save time by dividing the rest of the justice team into comic archetypes, such as Aquaman (Jemaine Clement), who eagerly devours fish food when held in a tank, and Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), who jokes about the shortcomings of technology. Stern and Whittington have previously worked together as writers LEGO Batman movieAnd, unsurprisingly, they bring the same level of relentless love to Reeves’ beautifully melodramatic Batman.

as with LEGO Batman moviethe best part of DC League of Super-Pets It is the writers’ intimate knowledge and love of the source material, which they use to keep the film moving with clever gags and even brighter callbacks. Featured is an inexplicable anthropomorphic recording of Krypto’s father, Dog-El, giving important advice such as “Don’t eat chocolate.” There are plenty of gags for well-known comic book fans, like a Justice League hotline asking callers to press buttons based on whether they’re trying to call Earth-1 or Earth-2, and the Big Belly Burger in downtown Metropolis crashing in combat.

Ace the Bat-Hound (Kevin Hart) acts as a dog armor for the rest of the animals cast in the DC League of Super-Pets

Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment

Inclination to the type of superhero also allows DC League of Super-Pets To avoid the sickening humor that often drives kids movies. Stern plays with these expectations via Lulu’s young lieutenant Whiskers, who has been turned into a living arsenal capable of producing weapons from her own body. During her big fight with the Super-Pets, she began piercing a ball of hair, but ended up shooting a grenade, which she gleefully flung at her opponents. It’s definitely a children’s movie made for adults, with obscure jokes like the TV coverage of Luther’s arrest showing the startling comment “a rich guy actually goes to jail.”

DC League of Super-Pets It’s also visually stunning, offering incredible vistas from the astonishing destruction of Krypton to the skyscrapers of Metropolis. The fight scenes are dynamic and well-designed, especially the Justice League’s initial removal of a strong-armored version of Luthor as the stakes of the conflict are constantly changing.

The popularity of superhero movies among teens and adults has pushed the genre to take on darker, more mature themes. It’s refreshing to see the joy that can be brought back to comic book stories when they only deal with simpler things and can lean on serious heroes and obsessive villains. DC League of Super-Pets It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a perfect way for DC Comics fans to introduce their kids to their favorite characters and lovable and surprisingly competent friends.

DC League of Super-Pets Opens in theaters July 29.

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