Starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Vanessa Bayer
Critical Rating: 2.5 of 5
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 4.5 of 5
As something of an animated companion piece to the live-action DC Extended Universe, “DC League of Super-Pets” is an amusing late-summer diversion that ultimately doesn’t quite reach the heights of this year’s best animated movies (“Apollo 10 ½,” “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” “The Bad Guys”).
The film opens with the classic origin story of baby Superman (John Krasinski) being sent to Earth by his parents Jor-El (Alfred Molina) and Lara (Lena Headey) – except this time, Superman’s trusted dog, Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), makes the trip to Earth with him. Over the next few decades, Krypto is instrumental in helping Superman defeat evildoers. The dog even has his own Clark Kent-esque glasses as a public disguise.
Krypto starts to feel left out, however, when Superman begins dating Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). His suspicions of being squeezed out of Superman’s life are confirmed when Superman visits an animal shelter to find Krypto a playmate. It’s there that Krypto meets Ace (Kevin Hart), a boxer eager to escape the shelter. After a brief altercation between Krypto and Ace, Superman leaves the shelter without adopting an animal, although that won’t be the last we see of Ace.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) is pulling a meteorite full of kryptonite from outer space into Metropolis, which he believes will give him superpowers. While his plan is ultimately foiled by Superman and Krypto, one of Luthor’s former guinea pigs, Lulu (Kate McKinnon), who lives in the same shelter as Ace, manages to procure a piece of the meteorite. The plot takes a new twist when she gives all of the shelter animals superpowers.
In an effort to save Luthor, Lulu uses her newfound powers to strip Superman and Krypto of theirs (and kidnap Superman in the process). Ace and the other now-powerful animals, having escaped from the shelter, agree to help Krypto save Superman and stop Lulu in her nefarious scheme.
This rather convoluted series of plot machinations results in the assembly of the titular League of Super-Pets – which happens roughly 40 minutes into the film. Unfortunately, all of this exposition means the movie is chock-full of the Super-Pets saying story beats aloud to make sure we’re all on the same page, robbing the movie of spontaneity and real character moments that would make much better use of the film’s impressive voice cast.
On a broader level, I’m just not certain “DC League of Super-Pets” has a good reason for existing beyond further pushing DC into the marketplace. That would be forgivable if the film was at least fun to watch or cleverly written, but it doesn’t quite succeed in either department.
That being said, “DC League of Super-Pets” certainly isn’t a terrible movie, and in this heat, it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon inside with the family. The film is rated PG primarily for action sequences, none of which are particularly violent. I would recommend the film for ages five and above.
Review by Jack Kyser, a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.