'DC League of Super-Pets' Review: Canine Capers With The Rock and Kevin Hart
Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon and Keanu Reeves swap capes and quips in a kid-friendly DC superhero sendup starring Superman's dog.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
We've been bombarded by superhero movies for years now, but there's life in the old dog yet -- specifically, we've reached the point when even Superman's pooch gets his own film. DC League of Super-Pets, available to watch and stream at home now, unleashes canine chaos upon the superhero genre in a family-friendly romp starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Hart and a bunch of other stars.
Colorful and silly for the kids (and just self-aware enough for grownups to laugh along), DC League of Super-Pets hit theaters in July and is available on digital now. It's also streaming now alongside other DC super-flicks like The Batman or Zack Snyder's Justice League on HBO Max. And it's out on DVD and Blu-ray now, with a release date of Oct. 4.
This latest super-film opens, inevitably, with an origin story. And while we've seen baby Superman escaping doomed Krypton a few times before, this time a cute puppy comes along for the ride. Incidentally, as kid-friendly as the movie is, I noticed as a parent that this version of the origin story is a rare retelling that acknowledges what that traumatic experience must have been like for tiny Kal-El, a scared crying baby.
Luckily it doesn't cause any lasting trauma (we haven't got to Batman yet). By the time they're fully grown, Superman and his canine chum Krypto make a perfect crime-fighting duo. Krypto's powers match Superman's, including super-strength and the ability to fly (though his secret identity, Bark Kent, is less successful). As they soar over the sun-dappled golden city of Metropolis, the only cloud on the horizon is Krypto's dawning jealousy over the relationship between Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
More pressing concerns take over, however, when supervillain Lex Luthor's latest scheme backfires and the Justice League is knocked out of action at the hands -- sorry, paws -- of a superpowered guinea pig voiced by Kate McKinnon.
Yes, it's as silly as it sounds -- and pretty fun. Johnson is game for a laugh as the enthusiastic but clueless Krypto, while other comic highlights include McKinnon's supervillain stylings and Natasha Lyonne as a short-sighted, horny, geriatric turtle.
It's breezy stuff, but while the idea is entertainingly goofy, Super-Pets rarely rises to the sort of imaginatively surreal humor that would lift it out of familiar superhero parody. But toe-tapping needle drops, a few bursts of nonthreatening action and plenty of quips amble past. Jokes for the parents take the form of knowing winks to earlier DC movies, like a sing-along to the classic Superman theme or a meta reference to the Dark Knight trilogy, but it's cheerfully wholesome and good-natured enough for younger kids.
Stylistically, the Justice League are rendered like action figures with their middles squeezed up into their swollen shoulders and jutting chins. This time it isn't just Aquaman who's the butt of the jokes (although I'd love to see Jemaine Clement as a live-action Aquaman), as Wonder Woman's invisible jet is repeatedly ribbed and Cyborg is put out of action by setting him on airplane mode. With goofy lunk Superman, John Krasinski continues his run of playing alternate versions of classic superheroes (following his turn as Marvel's Reed Richards in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness). Keanu Reeves lends his voice to a neckless, bulging-eyed Batman, serving riffs on the caped crusader's brooding angst that are always funny (even if not as hilarious as The Lego Batman Movie).
It's a shame the humans and pets can't talk to each other, so we don't get Krypto and Lois interacting and we're denied comic back-and-forth between Johnson and Krasinski. Johnson and Hart's double act is also oddly muted, as Hart's canine character is much more chill than he normally plays. That means we don't get much of the hyperactive banter Hart specializes in when paired with a straight man like Johnson (in Central Intelligence) or Ice Cube (in Ridealong) or Woody Harrelson (in this year's Netflix movie The Man From Toronto).
Super-Pets also doesn't have the emotional impact of a Pixar film, for example, or the Incredibles movies, which covers similar golden age superheroic shenanigans but with a ton of heart. Instead, the life lesson here is a bit muddled: something about Krypto learning to let go of his owner, except the film is then laser-focused on pairing every abandoned misfit pets with an owner. It reminds me of the later Toy Story movies, where Woody's insistence on serving a kid stopped making sense as a moral of the story.
So it's no The Incredibles or The Lego Movie. But this good-natured canine caper is a decent way to while away some time with your pups one dog day this summer.
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