Baltimore Sun

Funny refresh on superhero lore will please old, new fans

- By Katie Walsh

The DC Comics Cinematic Universe has mostly taken a dark, gritty approach to blockbuste­r comic book movies. But perhaps there’s another way to explore the world of the Justice League that’s a bit more warm, cuddly and friendly. That’s the thesis presented by the animated movie “DC League of Super-Pets,” which creates a family friendly access point to the worlds of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their gang of superheroe­s.

“DC League of SuperPets” is written by Jared Stern and John Whittingto­n, who have writing credits on “The Lego Ninjago Movie” and “The Lego Batman Movie.” The film is directed by Stern, who also directed the 2018 rom-com “Happy Anniversar­y,” and is co-directed by Sam Levine, who brings the animation experience. The voice cast is packed with favorite comedy actors, including Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Natasha Lyonne, Jemaine Clement, John Early and Marc Maron.

But most importantl­y, it teams Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in the lead roles of Krypto the Super-Dog and Ace, a rescue mutt. Johnson and Hart have had quite the success in their odd couple pairing in films such as “Central Intelligen­ce” and “Jumanji,” and “DC League of Super-Pets” relies on their lively banter to sell the enemies-to-friends story at the center of the film.

Stern and Whittingto­n’s script imagines a world in which a young Kal-El (who later becomes Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent, voiced by John Krasinski) has a stowaway puppy in the pod that blasts off from the planet Krypton. Boy and pup grow up into man and dog, saving the world together in Metropolis.

But when Krypto starts to become jealous of Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde), Clark wonders about finding his best friend his own best friend.

That quandary resolves itself when a guinea pig named Lulu (McKinnon), rescued from an animal testing lab run by Lex Luthor (Maron), and obsessed with world domination, uses orange kryptonite to grant herself and the other rescue animals superpower­s. Krypto has to team up with the motley crew of Ace, pig PB (Bayer), turtle Merton (Lyonne) and chipmunk Chip (Diego Luna) to save

Superman and the Justice League, who have been captured by the superpower­ed guinea pigs.

While the plot following Krypto finding his pack and saving the day is exceedingl­y formulaic and slightly tiresome to endure, Stern and Whittingto­n fill the space with absurdist humor and sharply written jokes. McKinnon’s performanc­e of the megalomani­acal Lulu proves to be one of the funniest in the film, while Lyonne’s Merton is a sleeper breakout.

“DC League of SuperPets” isn’t trying to break down the genre or trouble the already well-establishe­d world, but rather, find some wiggle room to play with the familiar characters and insert some childlike wonder and earnestnes­s. Both cutesy and comic, this animated film finds a way for kids and families to experience these well-known characters, but older DC fans will enjoy the references to their beloved comic book tales too. It’s a funny and sweet refresh on the DC lore that should please fans old and new.

MPAA rating: PG (for action, mild violence, language and rude humor) Running time: 1:46

How to watch: In theaters

 ?? WARNER BROS. PICTURES ?? Chip, from left, PB, Krypto, Ace and Merton in “DC League of Super-Pets,” written by Jared Stern, who also co-directed the film, and John Whittingto­n.
WARNER BROS. PICTURES Chip, from left, PB, Krypto, Ace and Merton in “DC League of Super-Pets,” written by Jared Stern, who also co-directed the film, and John Whittingto­n.

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