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film review

Krypto, voiced by Dwayne Johnson, in a scene from DC League of Super Pets.The Associated Press

  • DC League of Super-Pets
  • Directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine
  • Written by Jared Stern and John Whittington
  • Featuring the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Keanu Reeves
  • Classification G; 105 mins
  • Opens in theatres July 29

As I dropped my two preteens off at camp, I considered whether I should be taking them with me instead – to watch an advance screening of DC League of Super-Pets. They’d seen the two recent Jumanji films, starring Dwyane Johnson and Kevin Hart, and enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek rivalry/bromance between the two actors. Super-Pets might be a movie they’d appreciate, given their enthusiasm for the Lego movies co-produced by DC Comics. In the end, I was glad with my decision. This new movie is a decent enough distraction for kids in the dog days of summer, but it can’t compete with camp activities with friends.

Super-Pets is an odd kids film that speaks more to adults. Sure, the story is handsomely 3D animated as expected. There’s a cute factor in the beginning, as we see baby Kal-El being accompanied by puppy Krypto en route to Earth. However, there’s nothing eye-catching to keep our visual attention, and the plot that unfolds is thin.

Krypto (Johnson) is living the life as a super-dog, and Superman’s (John Krasinski) best friend. However, Superman is about to pop the question to Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde). Krypto isn’t thrilled with the prospect of being replaced (which made me wonder about equating a wife with a dog – but you know, whatevs). He doesn’t appreciate Superman’s attempt to find him a new friend at an animal rescue shelter, home to a motley crew of abandoned pets: hound Ace (Hart), pot bellied pig PB (Vanessa Byers), turtle Merton (Natasha Lyonne) and squirrel Chip (Diego Luna). There’s also a hairless guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon). Both Ace and Lulu have plans to break out of the rescue shelter, but for entirely different reasons.

You need a villain in these stories. And there’s Lex Luthor, trying to use an orange meteor to gain superhero powers. But it turns out that the meteor only gives powers to pets. (I found myself wondering whether it was just pets or all animals. But like I said, whatevs.) There are also cameo appearances by other DC supes – the most notable one being Keanu Reeves as Batman. Reeves as an animated Batman might sound inspired on the storyboard, but the final render is a decided meh.

Super-Pets tries to tap into the frenemy vibe between Johnson and Hart, and the two actors try to make the most of the one-liners given to them. But part of the shtick of watching Johnson and Hart is their physicality, and the audience’s familiarity with it. That tension doesn’t translate completely in the animation, and is likely lost on younger viewers.

The jokes in the film aren’t memorable. There was one about a “licensed toy” that had me chuckle, made funnier as it was uttered by Reeves’s gruff impression of Batman. But again, not really kids’ humour. There were a couple of children in the audience at the screening I attended. I only heard them laugh twice – in one scene of Ace taking an extended pee break, and another time at a Paw Patrol reference.

So far, my kids haven’t said anything about wanting to watch Super-Pets. If they do, they will likely walk out shrugging their shoulders.

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