When the Justice League falls into a dastardly trap, it’s up to Superman’s loyal pet Krypto and a misfit band of superpowered pets to save the day in DC League of Super-Pets. Embracing the low-stakes appeals of an animated family film represents an amusing change of pace for DC, which is usually synonymous today with solemn and self-serious superhero epics.
As a kid, I enjoyed the luxury of DC joggling some of their more mature material with affectionately goofy offerings like Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I also found myself enraptured by the cheeky appeals of the old-school Adam West Batman series – with both programs highlighting the light-hearted potential resting under the surface of these usually stoic characters.
DC League of Super-Pets opens the door for some creative opportunities before quickly closing that entryway from its own ambivalence. Ultimately, Super-Pets translates as a competent yet aggressively mediocre family offering that rarely stretches towards the meteoric potential of skewering the DC universe.
How can seeing a roster of superheroes and their adorable pet counterparts be so dull to endure? Screenwriters Jared Stern and John Whittington previously struck gold with the self-referential charms of The LEGO Batman Movie, but their effort here feels like a tired mishmash of gags and references. Some jokes exclusively pander to the pratfall sensibilities of the film’s core audience, while others offer half-baked homages to some of DC’s notable low moments. Neither style feels well thought-out as the duo recycles the standard-issue mold of modern family films.
Visually, DC League of Super-Pets adopts a charmless aesthetic. Stern, co-director Sam Levine, and their team of talented animators seem to be working on a limited budget despite the film’s $90 million price tag. Each frame here is composed without the vivid detail or expressive emotion that makes Warner Brothers rivaled competition stand out from the pack (even the straight-to-Netflix Sea Beast looked far more compelling). Instead, the film cycles through an array of bombastic action setpieces and over-the-top pratfalls that desperately lack a sense of personality.
I sense that most of the budget here went to the film’s all-star cast, which features a who’s who of Hollywood standouts (listing the cast would take up half this review alone). Packing animated films with a plethora of well-known talents is a formula that continues to be haphazardly embraced by studios. While it’s nice to have name recognition on the poster, most of these actors get straddled with roles that fail to utilize their distinct strengths. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Keanu Reaves, Kate McKinnon, Josh Krasinski, and several other talents lend their voices to a project that barely seems interested in their involvement.
DC League of Super-Pets is too busy and weightless to detest outright. Still, the final product feels like a wasted opportunity for everyone involved. I would not mind seeing DC try to play in the animated sandbox again, but I hope a future approach imbues a little more ingenuity.
DC League of Super Pets is now playing in theaters.
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