In the battle between DC and Marvel Comics to dominate the superhero film genre, DC continues to be a 98-pound weakling. The latest example is the animated “DC League of Super-Pets.”
There has been no real contest between the comic book giants when it comes to live-action movies. The long list of Marvel inspired projects – such as “Avengers Endgame” or “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” – have been artistic and action triumphs. Except for one very strong offering with Wonder Woman, the DC offerings have been creatively mediocre.
That lopsided battle on the big screen continues in the animation world. Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse” exploded off the screen with a stunning visual style and complex story. “DC League of Super-Pets” offers nothing original visually and the story follows a very basic line. It barely elevates above the kind of Saturday morning cartoons that have featured characters from DC Comics. The only difference is the all-star cast providing the voices that include Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Keanu Reeves.
Krypto the Super-Dog (voiced by Johnson) believes he is living a great life. He gets loads of attention from Superman (John Krasinski) as they save Metropolis from a never ending stream of disasters.
The only problem is that Krypto is feeling jealous that Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) is getting so much attention from Superman. The loneliness the super pooch is feeling gets magnified by his lack of any other friends.
When Superman and the rest of the Justice League get captured by Lex Luthor (Marc Maron), Krypto must count on a new crass menagerie of animal heroes to help him save the day.
They include Ace the hound (Hart), PB the pot bellied pig (Vanessa Bayer), Merton the turtle (Natasha Lyonne) and Chip the squirrel (Diego Luna). Except for their names and the fact they are all rescue animals, there is little to flesh out these supporting players.
During the process of dealing with the crisis, Krypto learns the importance of making friends. This often repeated message is another example of how the film never elevates above a standard animated offering.
The most entertaining character is the evil, hairless Lulu as voiced with great enthusiasm by Kate McKinnon. She is the most original and entertaining element of the entire film.
The lack of effort to make “DC League of Super-Pets” go up, up and away starts with directors Jared Stern and Sam Levine. Both come to the project with rather bland credits.
Stern is a veteran consultant on the “LEGO” movies who makes his animated feature film directorial debut. He comes to the project having written for the very average situation comedy “Dr. Ken.” Levine’s directing history includes the TV series “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero” and ‘Robot and Monster.”
The both have used their unexceptional careers to make a middle-of-the road super hero animated film. Stern adds to the problem as co-writer with John Whittington – writer on “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” They were content to take a standard plot and try to elevate it with some banter between Johnson and Hart. The banter just becomes bitter.
The rest of the script is a series of predictable jokes ranging from how no one really cares about Aquaman (Jemaine Clement) to the brooding nature of Batman. Reeves does a great job delivering the jaw-clenched dialogue of Batman but there is only so much humor that can be culled from recycled jokes.
Had the Warner Bros. animation group not shown some glimpses of brilliance in the past, the mundane nature of “DC League of Super-Pets” would not have been such a disappointment. The company has created some brilliant animated films that have been released on video including “Batman: The Long Halloween.” The fact that the film is magnificent from the visuals to the writing is proof DC productions can be as good – or even better – than Marvel works as long as an effort is made to push the creative envelope.
“DC League of Super-Pets” plays everything as safely as possible. That doesn’t mean it is bad. It just means that there is nothing to make it shine in a world where the war between comic book giants continues to be waged.
DC League of Super-Pets
2 1/2 stars
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, Keanu Reeves, John Krasinski, Olivia Wilde, Diego Luna.
Directors: Jared Stern and Sam Levine
Rated: PG for mild violence, rude humor
Running time: 105 minutes.