The DC Extended Universe has a darker, gritty approach to blockbuster movie comic books. 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 combines several elements that have already proven successful to create a family-friendly access point to the worlds of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and their gang of superheroes.
“DC League of Super-Pets” 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.” Co-director Sam Levine (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”) brings the animation experience. You will find your favorite comedians, including Natasha Lyonne (Kate McKinnon), Jemaine Cllement, John Early, Marc Maron and Natasha Lyonne) in the voice cast.
It also stars Dwayne and Kevin Hart as Ace, Ace the Super-Dog, and Krypto, Ace the 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. Both boy and puppy grow up to be man and dog and save the world in Metropolis. Clark is jealous of Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) and Krypto grows jealous. Clark wonders if Clark can find his best friend a friend of his own.
This dilemma is solved when Lulu (McKinnon), an elderly guinea-pig who was rescued from Lex Luthor’s animal testing laboratory, becomes obsessed with world dominance and uses a shard orange kryptonite as a way to give herself and other rescue animals superpowers. Krypto is forced to join the motley crew of Ace (Bayer), pig PB(Bayer), an elderly turtle Merton Lyonne (Lyonne), and a chipmunk Chip (Diego Luna), to save Superman, the Justice League, and their captors, the superpowered guinea pigs.
While the plot following Krypto finding his pack and saving the day is exceedingly formulaic and slightly tiresome with its predictable turns, Stern and Whittington fill the space around the structure with a plethora of absurdist humor and sharply written jokes, as well as the teasing self-awareness that marked both “The Lego Batman Movie” (arguably the best deconstruction of the Batman myth) and “The Lego Ninjago Movie.” 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 Super-Pets” 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. This animated film is both comic and cute and allows families and kids to see these familiar characters. Older DC fans will also enjoy the references to their favorite comic books. It’s a funny and sweet refresh on the DC lore that should please fans old and new.
Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service movie critic.
‘DC League of Super-Pets’
Rated:PG stands for mild violence, action and rude humor
Running time:1 hour 46 minutes
Playing:General release begins July 29