Behind every great superhero, apparently, there’s a super-pet—or there should be. Buried like a Kryptonite bone beneath all the explosions, jokes, booming music, superhero derring-do, and mega-star voices, that’s the basic takeaway from the animated family feature DC League Of Super-Pets. Co-writing with John Whittington, directors Jared Stern and Sam Levine pull off a near-impossible feat—creating a film that’s great for kids, entertaining for pretty much any adult taking kids to the theater, and close to perfect for those parents out there who also happen to be massive DC fans.
Stern and Levine fill the screen with impressive, colorful, and detailed imagery, sly visual inside jokes and Easter eggs, and convincing explosions—a LOT of them. And, it’s not just a random direct-to-DVD title writ large; DC League Of Super-Pets deserves to be seen in a movie theater on the biggest screen possible.
Very loosely based on the Legion Of Super-Pets, which first appeared as a team in Adventure Comics #293 way back in 1962—though most of the individual characters had been glimpsed in prior tails, er, comic-book tales—the story opens on Krypton moments before its destruction. Just as baby Kal-El is about to be jettisoned to safety and toward his future, his dog, Krypto, leaps into the birthing matrix to join him. On Earth, Krypto the Super-Dog (now voiced by Dwayne Johnson) and Clark Kent/Superman (John Krasinski) are inseparable pals. They do everything together, from playing catch to saving the denizens of Metropolis. However, when Clark’s relationship with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) turns serious, he begins to spend less and less time with Krypto.
Around the same time, Lex Luthor (Marc Maron) successfully captures and imprisons the heroes of the Justice League: Batman (Keanu Reeves), Aquaman (Jemaine Clement), Green Lantern (Dascha Polanco), Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), and The Flash (John Early). Krypto attempts to rise to the occasion, but circumstances result in Krypto losing his powers while local pet shop outcasts Ace (Kevin Hart), a Boxer, potbellied pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), vision-challenged turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne), and squirrel Chip (Diego Luna) gain newfound ones of their own. And then there’s the always-plotting hairless guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon), who takes the moment as her opportunity to reunite with Lex Luthor so they can be baddie besties forever and ever. Can the pets save the day? Will Superman and Krypto reconcile? Is there a fun mid-credits sequence? Not for us to give it all away, so let’s go with … probably.
Stern and Levine condense that seemingly convoluted story into a cohesive, easy-to-digest adventure that kids should have no trouble following, thanks not only to top-notch animation, but terrific performances the duo elicit from their cast. Johnson and Hart never recorded dialogue together due to COVID restrictions, yet the natural chemistry from their prior live-action outings endures. Jamil and Reeves stand out as Wonder Woman and Batman, and Bayer is adorable as PB. But it’s Kate McKinnon who steals the show. Lulu is a basket case from beginning to end, and McKinnon perfectly conveys her manic energy and pure desperation, ratcheting it up incrementally after Lulu acquires her powers.
As terrific as DC League Of Super-Pets is, its plentiful explosions are loud and violent—not to mention they depict the destruction of buildings that innocent bystanders presumably live and work inside. And at one point, a villain nearly chokes a beloved Super-Pet to death by twisting a metal pipe around its neck. These are considerations more important for audience members with young companions, but for anyone who understands that it’s just make-believe, DC League Of Super-Pets offers a barking good time at the movies.