DC movies have a reputation for taking themselves too seriously. They’ve made significant strides in recent years to shed the dark and grim image, but it remains even in things like “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Sometimes it’s even easy to forget that when it comes down to it, superheroes are for kids. This makes “DC League of Super-Pets,” a straight-forward cartoon with a sense of humor and an all-star voice cast, quite refreshing. It could also be seen as a shameless early advertisement to attract young minds to Justice League so that years from now, when it’s inevitably rebooted, they’ll have a young, determined audience. But let’s take the charitable route here, since it comes from director Jared Stern and his “LEGO Batman” co-writer John Whittington, who managed to find fun and humor in cynical toy-making and recruiting constructs.
After all, this is the movie that gave us Kevin Hart as a puppy from the shelter, Marc Maron as Lex Luthor, Kate McKinnon as a murderous guinea pig named Lulu, Natasha Lyonne as an old man, a libidinous turtle named Merton, and Keanu Reeves as Batman. It’s impossible to top Will Arnett as the caped crusader, but Reeves sets a good example for himself, delivering lines like “Batman works alone. Except for Gordon. And Alfred… and even whoever plays Morgan Freeman” in a way that only he. . “DC’s League of Super Pets” wears its heart on its sleeve on the planet Krypton, where the cherubic child Kal-El was sent to Earth. But he wasn’t alone. A puppy named Krypto (Dwane Johnson) comes along for the ride and signs up as Superman’s (John Krasinski) future lifelong guardian and crime fighter. Krypto takes its mission seriously. In his eyes, she’s not just Superman’s best friend, she’s his only friend, and things get a little tense when Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) enters the picture. In his jealous rage one night (eating ice cream, watching “The Great British Bake Off” and listening to “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift), Krypto doesn’t notice that Superman is in trouble. Her beloved owner is captured along with the rest of Lulu’s Justice League guinea pigs. McKinnon actually makes the film as Lulu, Lex Luthor’s transplanted science experiment who spends time at an animal shelter building a device to harness the power of the orange kryptonite that awaits you. just in time to attack the Justice League. Her roommates are Hart’s Ace, a pig named PB (Vanessa Bayer), chipmunk Chip (Diego Luna), and Lyonne’s Merton, none of whom are chosen for adoption (it’s always a kitten on the first day). But at least they get their freedom when Lulu’s plan works and suddenly they all have superpowers. From there you can guess what happens.
The visuals, though, are less inspired. These CG characters, especially the Justice League, are smooth and dull creatures, computer generated to the point of blandness. Wonder Woman in particular even veers into uncanny Cocomelon territory with her minimally expressive face and unfocused eyes. Perhaps the superheroes were an afterthought to their animal counterparts.
Johnson and Hart seem to have fun, too, but a fair amount of their charm as a comedic duo is lost without their physical presence — not that the audience of kids will know this or care. Parents might just be wishing they were watching this cast in live-action instead.
“DC League of Super-Pets,” a Warner Bros. release in theaters Friday, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “action, mild violence, language and rude humor.” Running time: 106 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
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