By Josh Reilly B.
In recent years, animated films have broken new ground and tackled box office records to become more respected and taken more seriously than before. This progression, if it can be labeled as such, has become even more obvious this summer with Minions: The Rise of Gru. The Steve Carell led film, which is a prequel to the Despicable Me outings from the same franchise, received favorable reviews from critics and has made over $650 million worldwide. This success has permeated to such an extent that the film is now a pop culture sensation, with many memes made about it.
As Minions’ box office run winds down, enter DC League of Super Pets. Based on DC comics and, in particular, certain lighthearted stories that feature animal companions to classic superheroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more. It’s an idea that would simply not work in other notable DC titles (think the tonal inconsistency of Robert Pattinson’s Batman having a canine side kick while listening to Nirvana’s Something in the Way). The CW’s Arrowverse has had a few easter eggs to the general concept but ultimately opted not to go down that route. Judging by the final product, an animated project was the right way to go, especially considering the recent box office success of the genre.
League of Super Pets follows Krypto the Super-Dog, who shares the same powers as his crime fighting companion Superman, as he attempts to rescue his friend and the rest of the Justice League after they were kidnapped. It’s a relatively straight forward and simple plot, which benefits the film greatly as it attempts to appeal to a younger audience.
DC’s latest film has a variety of A-list actors to voice these heroes, including Dwayne Johnson as Krypto, Keanu Reeves as Batman, John Krasinski as Superman, along with appearances by Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, and more. The interesting thing in regards to the cast is how many of them have been suggested or rumored to play these characters, or superheroes in general, in live action. The Rock is Black Adam in the upcoming film and frequently mentions his character facing off against Superman in the future, while John Krasinski has been suggested by some as a candidate to play a new iteration of the Man of Steel. Most recently, Keanu Reeves reiterated his desire to play an older Batman after Pattinson’s journey ends.
All of the cast do an excellent job in the film, delivering comedic relief well and, in the case of the human characters, hilariously playing hyper-exaggerated version of the heroes. This is most evident in Batman, as Keanu Reeves seems to be doing a Christian Bale/Dark Knight spoof of sorts, making his voice low and gravely as it was during the Nolan trilogy. Reeves is able to deliver some fun, often self referential jokes at the same time as retaining a degree of seriousness (which is needed in order to keep the audience invested in the plot).
Ever since the first trailer debuted, the film’s animation style has been debated by comic book fans. Some have described the heroes as short, wide, and ultimately ridiculous looking, and while this is an understandable opinion, the design works well in motion in the actual film. It’s out there, certainly, but it works with the overall idea of the film. A hyper realistic animation style, for example, would feel odd alongside comedy that frequently pokes fun at DC licensing products and more. Oddly enough, the art style works so well that it is genuinely visually appealing, adding to the overall enjoyment of the movie.
Despite these positives, some issues remain prevalent throughout. At times, Super Pets feels like a less successful version of the LEGO Batman movie, especially given its attempts at self referential comedy. It might be labeled as unfair to compare it to LEGO Batman, a film that is arguably the gold standard for self referencing animated titles, but it still must be said that the attempts fall short here. At times, it feels like a corporation attempting to ‘get in on the joke’, as the saying goes, by poking fun of themselves in an animated movie. This ultimately comes off as disingenuous, which is a shame.
DC’s League of Super Pets is an enjoyable animated film from Warner Bros., boosted by some great voice acting performances and fun comedic moments here and there. Despite that, the attempts at self referential humor backfire at times as it feels at a tad false, but it doesn’t derail the movie in any way, and is sure to mostly breeze over the heads of the younger target audience.