By Dwight Brown
NNPA News Wire Film Critic
Somebody really put their paw in this.
Humans are credited for writing and directing this fun-filled ani//act/adv, but don’t be surprised if a four-legged friend ghostwrote and directed the whole thing. The dialogue, jokes and storyline are so pet friendly and perceptive it seems that way.
Krypto the Super-dog (voice of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and his buddy Superman (John Krasinski) have an undeniable bromance. Life is sweet and all Kibble ‘n Bits until the man of steel turns his attention to Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) and then gets kidnapped. His trusty canine would save him, but he becomes incapacitated. For Krypto to come to the rescue, he has to reach out for help.
He sniffs out aid at an animal shelter: “My best friend is in danger, and you have to help me!” Krypto befriends Ace (Kevin Hart) a boxer dog, PB a pig (Vanessa Bayer), Merton (Natasha Lyonne) a turtle and Chip (Diego Luna) a squirrel. They join his posse. But a spiteful, vitriolic guinea pig named Lulu (Kate McKinnon) won’t toss him a bone. In fact, she’s making it her business to trash and destroy everyone. Especially Superman and the whole Justice League. Bark if you hear me!
From the explosive beginning to the big showdown the footage has verve. It’s fun, naughty, infectious and visually pleasing. The plotline, as outlined by director/writer Jared Stern and co-writer John Whittington, is easy to follow and though there is a bevy of characters, animal and human, each are distinguished by their personalities and superpowers. The filmmakers have essentially further updated a DC comic strip that dates back to 1962 (“Legion of Super-pets”), which featured a different set of animal heroes with different skills.
The smart-mouth dialogue, edgy characters and personal struggles all stem from an animal’s point of view. E.g., one of the creatures in the shelter laments about humans’ bias when they adopt: “They always pick the kittens.” Ain’t that the truth. Once the film starts, children, teens and adults will stick around to see if the empowered animals prevail soKrypto can reunite with Superman or if Lex Luther (Marc Maron) and Lulu annihilate everyone.
Steve Jablonsky’s musical score is instinctively energetic and dramatic. Kristen Anderson and Ryan L. Carlson’s art direction uses a pallet of colors that are bright and pleasing. Kim Taylor’s production design, from the far-off planet of Krypton to the bustling Metropolis, is dynamic. And editors David Egan and Jhoanne Reyes know exactly where to snip and clip for 1h 46m.
Someone break it to Dwayne “The Rock “Johnson, he is far more expressive doing his sensitive but strong Super-dog voiceover than he has ever been on screen. SNL’s Kat McKinnon has been in numerous movies, but none have aptly captured the zest, skills and talent she has shown on Saturday Night Live. Using emotion, inflection, phrasing and attitude she turns Lulu into the most heinous, snarky villain of the 21st century. Hyperbole? Maybe… but it’s still sincere. She has a campy good time, upstages everyone and leaves a trail of OG guinea pig venom wherever she goes.
DC League of Super Pets doesn’t advance the craft of animation. It doesn’t break the mold. However, it is sly, wicked and so much fun. Kids will laugh at the antics. Adults will chuckle when they hear the puns, jokes, catty remarks and doggy banter. Who would have guessed that the star-spangled DC Justice League would get outshined by a bunch of critters?
It might be time for Stern and Whittington to fess up and admit that a pet wrote and directed this film. And whoever that pet is really left their scent all over it!