The mid-2000s were not a good time for animated films. With the exception of foreign films from studios like Studio Ghibli, most American animated films were pretty painful. Aping Dreamworks’ success with Shrek, every studio tried to have their Shrek and fill them with everything that made Shrek work. Celebrity voices, snarky dialogue, attitude without any meaning behind it, and an overall focus on creating movies that would be lucrative in the short term rather than stand the test of time. DC League of Super-Pets feels like it came from the mid-2000s.
Despite only being barely over an hour and a half, DC League of Super-Pets does nothing to justify its runtime or even its premise. I may be biased because I love the concept of the Super Pets, but damn it, this movie somehow managed to disappoint me. And I went into it thinking it would just be a serviceable family movie!
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DC League of Super-Pets
Director: Jared Stern
Release Date: July 29, 2022
Krypto the Super Dog (Dwayne Johnson) is the lovable sidekick of Superman (John Krasinski) and has been with him ever since Kal-El’s home planet of Krypton blew up. The two are inseparable, but Krypto begins to feel replaced when Superman starts to date Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). While Krypto sulks about being left home alone, Superman is captured by an evil guinea pig named Lulu (Kate Mckinnon) who used elements of Lex Luthor’s latest plan to defeat Superman by augmenting herself with superpower-enabling orange Kryptonite. While Krypto can’t defeat her due to being infected with Kryptonite, he does discover four animals from the same shelter that Lulu was from, each enhanced with powers from the orange Kryptonite. Krypto teams up with them, including a gruff dog named Ace (Kevin Hart), to defeat Lulu and rescue Superman.
I know I just inundated you with a lot of celebrities in that synopsis, but that isn’t even getting close to the total amount of stunt casting on display here. Keanu Reeves as Batman, Daveed Diggs as Cyborg, Alfred Molina as Jor-El, these are just a few of the names Warner Bros dragged in to voice these characters. They’re all fine but completely unremarkable. There’s no spark or energy to any of their performances. You could tell that for most of the cast, this was just a job to cash in a paycheck.
There’s no real heart of ingenuity in DC League of Super-Pets. It feels entirely designed by committee and hits a lot of points that you would expect from an animated movie like this. You could predict the plot from the moment the conflict presents itself. I don’t really mind if a movie is predictable as long as there’s something for me to sink my teeth into. Maybe the character dynamics are interesting, or there’s some great animation on display, or maybe there’s a wonderful performance by an actor. There’s none of that here. It’s just a by-the-numbers animated movie. You would think there would be a little bit of ambition here, like in recent DC movies, but nope!
There’s a variety of humor on display here that hits a lot of different demographics. You have your general gross-out jokes, some snarky asides, “LOL SO RANDOM” humor, or the odd bit of physical comedy. They work well enough, but there’s no impact for any of them. The physical comedy doesn’t have enough squash or stretch to really sell the pain of the characters and the verbal comedy is let down by the actors not really knowing how to sell a joke on their delivery alone. The only joke I found consistently funny was a running gag with a superfast turtle named Merton (Natasha Lyonne), who would just openly curse. They would just swear up a storm and be censored the second they did so and it never got old for me.
The entire film just gives across these vibes of “good enough.” There’s nothing inherently bad about the movie, it’s just unremarkable. There was only one sequence in the film that I found entertaining and it involved a grenade vomiting cat, which let’s be honest here, is peak cinema. The movie was so remedial that I actually fell asleep for a minute or two watching it. I’ve never fallen asleep in a movie theater before, but when Ace and Krypto were having a heart-to-heart moment and sharing their past, I started to feel myself zone out and my head begin to droop.
I almost wish I had more to say about DC League of Super-Pets that amounted to genuine criticism. The only thing about the movie I actually found interesting was the fact that this was the second week in a row I saw Keith David pop up as a character, which was a pleasant surprise. Also, this was the second movie of 2022 where the climax involved our heroes trying to contend with a mob of evil guinea pigs. Like, the fact that this happened twice in the span of 4 months is odd on so many levels. If this happens one more time in 2022 then I will officially be freaked out.
Anyway, I really don’t know what more you expect me to say of DC League of Super-Pets. It’s a movie that uses a lot of celebrity stunt casting to make you think the movie will be funnier or better performed than it actually is. It’s a vehicle for merchandise and kids’ toys and I wouldn’t be surprised if an animated series was announced on HBO Max to continue the franchise. There’s no substance to it and no heart, but it’s not broken or anything. It’s just kind of here, sucking air through its face hole and acting like it’s meant to be here when in reality nobody cares about it.