In recent years, Warner Bros. has diversified its big screen DC Comics offerings, expanding beyond its central live-action universe, and the latest of these is DC League of Super-Pets. The animated superhero action comedy shifts the focus from the Justice League to a new team of superheroes made up of the Man of Steel’s faithful canine companion and a group of shelter animals. Krypto the Superdog has a long history in the comics, since the character was created by Otto Binder and Curt Swan in 1955. Like Superman, Krypto gets powers from Earth’s sun and is able to help his Krypton friend fight crime. Though DC League of Super-Pets tries to impart lessons about friendship and vulnerability, the characters and story outside Krypto feel half-baked.
After escaping a dying Krypton with baby Kal-El and vowing to protect the young Kryptonian, Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) lives a spectacular life fighting crime alongside Superman (John Krasinski). But their friendship hits its first obstacle when Clark decides to propose to Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). After Krypto and Superman have an argument, Superman is attacked and captured by the evil guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon), who also doses Krypto with Kryptonite, leaving him powerless. When Lulu captures the rest of the Justice League, Krypto teams up with shelter pets who have gained superpowers from Orange Kryptonite: the invulnerable dog Ace (Kevin Hart), the size-changing pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), the super-fast turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne) and the electrokinetic squirrel Chip (Diego Luna). Though Krypto typically struggles with working with anyone besides Superman, he’ll need to learn to work with a team in order to save his owner.
Dwayne Johnson voices Krypto and John Krasinski voices Superman in DC League of Super-Pets
At its core, DC League of Super-Pets is meant to be a heartwarming story about a dog learning what it means to be a good friend. While the script co-written by director Jared Stern and John Whittington, both of whom worked on The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, gets that lesson across, everything surrounding it feels much less strong. In particular, the supporting characters of PB, Chip and Merton are wildly underdeveloped compared to Krypto and Ace – and even Lulu – reducing them to one particular character trait that either helps the plot move along or provides comedic relief. It’s certainly difficult in a movie with so many characters to tell a well-developed story about each of them, but the movie spends more time joking about the Justice League than fleshing out the characters who are ostensibly co-leads. In fact, establishing PB, Chip and Merton as characters is done so poorly, audiences might leave the theater wishing we’d gotten a movie about this version of the Justice League, since the hints of their characters are more fun than the other Super-Pets.
Instead DC League of Super-Pets is largely a Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart movie, but this time they’re animated dogs and they can’t do any of their normal physical comedy schtick. Still, their good-natured bickering appears plenty, which may work for audiences who enjoy both actors, but Johnson and Hart simply don’t have the same comedic chemistry in animation, leaving Krypto and Ace’s dynamic to fall flat. Kate McKinnon, unsurprisingly, is the strongest of the voice cast, clearly having fun with all the evil sides of Lulu, which comes across on screen. Similarly, Natasha Lyonne gives a fun performance that elevates the humor of Merton. The rest of the cast is fine in their respective roles, though no one else particularly stands out.
Diego Luna voices Chip, Vanessa Bayer voices PB, Dwayne Johnson voices Krypto, Kevin Hart voices Ace and Natasha Lyonne voices Merton in DC League of Super-Pets
Ultimately, DC League of Super-Pets is a rather mediocre animated offering. Stern and Whittington’s script is full of all kinds of DC Comics Easter eggs and even a handful of cheeky references to Marvel superheroes, but they feel inauthentically ham-fisted in for the sake of making references the audience will understand. Between the lack of developed characters and the references used in place of actually funny jokes, DC League of Super-Pets may leave viewers feeling unsatisfied. Further, while the 3D animation of DC League of Super-Pets looks mostly well-done, there’s nothing that really sets it apart from other 3D-animated fare so it simply blends together. As a result, DC League of Super-Pets fails to stand out in any significant way, whether with heart, humor or animation.
In the end, DC League of Super-Pets might be a decent enough way to pass the time for families looking to escape the summer heat, but it may not keep kids entertained for all of its hour and 46-minute runtime. Beyond families with young kids, there’s not much here to draw in other viewers. Johnson and Hart have proved a formidable movie duo in the past, but without their usual on-screen charm, it’s tough to get invested in the stories of Krypto and Ace. Even with their star-power and a slew of talented performers making up the supporting cast, DC League of Super-Pets doesn’t offer much. There’s some fun to be had with DC League of Super-Pets, but it isn’t necessarily a must-watch – even for DC movie fans.