On more than one level, “DC League of Super-Pets” falls right between “The Secret Life of Pets” and “The Lego Movie.” Like “The Secret Life of Pets,” the movie is an animated comedy that follows domesticated animals whose voices can’t be understood by humans as they learn to make friends for themselves without their coddling owners. And both movies have Kevin Hart, can’t forget that. Like “The Lego Movie,” the cast of characters includes the entire Justice League (and some other fun DC cameos), though they spend the majority of the film’s running time incapacitated. Both films feature funny casting choices for popular characters, which is an invaluable tool for arguing that, say, Will Arnett and Keanu Reeves are both technically part of the Batman canon. The result of the amalgamation is a movie that should be pleasing to both animal lovers and comics nerds.
Dwayne Johnson stars as Krypto, dog to Superman (John Krasinski). Krypto also has Kryptonian superpowers, as he stowed away with Superman on that Krypton-escaping rocket when they were both little. Now the two fight crime and save Metropolis side-by-side daily, but Superman’s attentions have been… branching out lately thanks to his relationship with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). Krypto is afraid of losing his best friend, especially when he learns that Supes plans to ask Lois to marry him.
Superman senses that Krypto is about to feel left out of his new life, so he goes to an animal shelter to see about getting Krypto a friend. At the shelter is Ace (Hart), a dog with a tragic backstory that just wants to bust everyone out of the shelter so they can all move to a nice farm upstate. Other animals include pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), squirrel Chip (Diego Luna), turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne), and hairless guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon). Krypto and Ace don’t like each other, with Krypto looking down on Ace for not having superpowers or an owner, and Ace not liking Krypto for his condescension. Since the characters are voiced by frequent collaborators Johnson and Hart, you can probably guess that they’ll soon be paired up for the rest of the movie.
The adventure kicks into gear when Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) tries to defeat Superman with orange Kryptonite. The plan fails because humans can’t use the substance, but animals can. A shard of the stuff falls into the shelter, where Ace and the other animals gain superpowers, while Krypto loses his. Lulu, a former testing animal at LexCorp, is thrilled at the prospect of rejoining her former owner and conquering the world together. It turns out that she’s a lot more competent at taking out the Justice League than Lex ever was. It’s up to Krypto, Ace, and the other shelter animals to save the day, even though Krypto is without his powers and Ace and the others don’t know how to behave heroically.
I previously mentioned that “DC League of Super-Pets” fell between “The Secret Life of Pets” and “The Lego Movie” on more than one level. One of those levels is that story elements are mashed together, but another level is quality. I found that this movie had a sharper wit and more likeable characters than the former, but less imagination and more clumsy jokes than the latter. Grade-wise, I felt that those movies were a high C and a low A, respectively, and the average of the two seems just right for this perfectly agreeable movie that doesn’t quite reach the upper echelons of animated filmmaking.
“DC League of Super-Pets” is rated PG for action, mild violence, language and rude humor. Its running time is 106 minutes.
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Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.