DC League of Super-Pets review: Sassy, sweary and super self-aware

 (Warner Bros)
(Warner Bros)

In this sassy and super self-aware kids cartoon about Superman’s pet Labrador, Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), we learn that with great power comes great cursing. A doddery New York turtle, Merton (Russian Doll’s Natasha Lyonne), gains the gift of speed and having whizzed into a field, yelps, “Where the [bleep] am I?”

If you believe Hollywood is systematically destroying the innocence of childhood, one stealthy f-word at a time, then writer Jared Stern’s first stab at directing is not for you. As animated features go, it’s got more in common with Sausage Party than PAW Patrol. In fact, one character literally sneers, “What is this, PAW Patrol?”

Krypto and Superman (John Krasinski) have been best friends since birth, but when Superman gets serious with larky Lois Lane (woman of the moment, Olivia Wilde) Krypto decides it’s nervous breakdown o’clock. Usually as strong and all-seeing as the Man of Steel, Krypto starts watching Bake Off at top volume. He also makes the rookie error of wolfing down Kryptonite-laced cheese. As a result, he’s unable to help his buddy and the rest of the Justice League when they’re targeted by Lex Luthor’s number one fan, animal rescue shelter guinea-pig Lulu (a scene-stealing Kate McKinnon), aka “Daughter of Cinnamon”.

Luckily, the same mysterious orange kryptonite that fuels Lulu’s cunning plan pimps up the rest of the animal shelter critters, including hound Ace (Kevin Hart), pot-bellied pig PB (Vanessa Bayer), red squirrel Chip (Diego Luna) and the aforementioned Merton. Can Krypto persuade this newly intimidating crew to step up and save Metropolis?

On the job: The Super-Pets assemble (Warner Bros)
On the job: The Super-Pets assemble (Warner Bros)

It’s a well-established idea that superheroes can have four-legged, crime-fighting friends. PB, along with Mark and Keith (a pair of guinea pigs who feature in the second half of the movie) may not be canon, but Krypto, Ace, Chip and Merton have been appearing in DC comics for years. The heartfelt banter between the animals will also feel a tad familiar to those who’ve seen The Secret Life of Pets (a fun film that was, in itself, a crib of Toy Story 2). Stern, without doubt, is working within parameters set down by canny studio heads.

But it’s just so cute.

Did I mention that Batman is voiced by Keanu Reeves, whose tortured growl lights up scene after scene? Meanwhile, Kiwi comedy God Jemaine Clement gives the fish-food-gobbling Aquaman all sorts of kinks.

DC League of Super-Pets also has a huge soft spot for rodents. The technical team do beautiful things with the bodies of Mark and Keith, who go from flaming and ice-hard to charred and liquid-soft but stay adorable, leaving viewers with a conundrum: would you rather snuggle a guinea pig or those pixels? I confess, I wanted to do both.

Stern’s project isn’t in the same league as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Then again, few things are. While we’re waiting for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (June 2, 2023; yay!) Warners’ uncouth yarn will do nicely.

In cinemas from July 29