Here is the logical next stop in the superhero cinema gold rush: a family-friendly cash-in. The ‘Legion Of Super-Pets’ was one of the lesser-known teams in DC comics, which since 1962 included such bizarre characters as Beppo the Super-Monkey, Detective Chimp and the Bat-Cow. Sadly, none of those characters appear in this very loose adaptation, which combines a fairly first-base comic-book origin story with an equally first-base kiddie CG animation template to fashion a film seemingly driven as much by marketing and merch as story or characters. It’s a fun pitch on paper — what if your pet dog was a superhero? — but in execution, it is very tiring.
As is customary for this kind of animated blockbuster, a bevy of big-name actors (many of whom have already donned capes in live action) lend their voices to the human and furry ensemble cast. It’s the stunt casting of the two leads which seems most designed to draw attention, of course: regular co-stars Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, the Little and Large of their generation, whose on- and off-screen bromantic antics is well-documented, from behind-the-scenes pranks on the Jumanji sets to mock Instagram beef.
The animation style is flat and uninspired, with generic character design and plasticky-smooth CG.
But their usual standard of bants is largely missing here, perhaps stifled by separate recording sessions, and lumbered with lame jokes that rarely land. (Quips about Iron Man and Thor’s hammer are a very laboured wink to the grown-up audience.) Johnson is at least allowed to do the People’s Eyebrow in canine form and say the word “jabroni”. But it’s not enough.
Only Kate McKinnon, hamming it up like one of her more outlandish Saturday Night Live characters, makes any headway with the script. She plays Lulu, the hairless guinea pig of doom, with a very funny accent that exists somewhere between a cackling wealthy dowager and Katharine Hepburn. Her villain is gloriously, campishly over-the-top — a rare saving grace.
Otherwise, it all just feels a bit pointless. The animation style is flat and uninspired, with generic character design and plasticky-smooth CG — in sharp contrast to recent innovations taken by studios like Sony or Pixar. And the plot, such as it is, could be predicted by even the youngest viewers: an evil scheme, a team that must learn to work together, a third act that neatly sorts everything out. Anyone looking to make a case for superhero fatigue would do well to use this as Exhibit A.
What makes this almost a shame is that the sort of thing they’re vaguely aiming for here — a goofy, knowing send-up of the genre’s most famous tropes — could be achieved, with just a few tweaks. The Keanu Reeves-voiced Batman, for example, is depicted as an operatically moody emo type who “recedes into the shadows” — which immediately recalls Lego Batman from The Lego Batman Movie (co-written, incidentally, by this film’s co-director), or Spider-Man Noir from Into The Spider-Verse. Two films which did this kind of thing a whole lot better.