Smoothie reviews DC’s new animated adventure in time for the school holidays.
I don’t envy anyone working on a film at a modern, major animation studio.
Okay, I do a bit. In fact, I think I’ve just accidentally described my dream job.
But there’s no denying what a challenging endeavour a film like this would be. Not only because of the sheer amount of time and care it takes to pull it off at all, but because of the increasingly long list of demands that studio heads insist on including in every new animated picture.
It’s not enough to simply make the best film you can. It has to include as much recognisable voice talent as possible (whether they’re right for the part or not.) Plus, set up future instalments, because anything can be the new MCU if you try hard enough. Oh, and let’s squeeze in a new song to promote too if there’s room. And don’t forget to include a meta joke every 30 seconds. People love that! Even though it stopped being fun a decade ago and becomes increasingly condescending and lazy with each passing day.
Sure this is all frustrating and annoying, but don’t get me wrong, I actually quite enjoyed DC League of Super-Pets. When you crack its hard shell of corporate cynicism, there’s actually a very sweet story at its centre:
A story of Superman’s pup, Krypto the Superdog. These super friends have been inseparable since arriving on Earth and spend their days fighting crime side by side.
Everything is perfect for Krypto! For now, at least. He struggles making friends and is growing increasingly uncomfortable with Superman’s relationship with journalist Lois Lane.
Krypto’s worst fears are realised when a new evil kidnaps Superman and the Justice League, whilst stripping Krypto of his powers. A defeated Krypto must now learn to swallow his pride and team up with a rag-tag group of rescue animals to save his best friend.
It’s a simple story about love and friendship, pulled off with just enough heart to overcome the aforementioned, stapled on elements designed to keep the film commercially viable.
These elements would be enough to break lesser movies (see every single film released by Illumination Entertainment) but Super-Pets expertly avoids drowning in cynicism simply by balancing it out with a healthy amount of sincerity.
This isn’t a movie satisfied with being a colourful, profitable distraction. The filmmakers clearly felt passionate about the lessons to be learned on Krypto’s adventure.
Key to this is his relationship with Ace, a rescue hound who’s lived a polar opposite life to Krypto. The friendship these two forge is earned and tested through shared hardship.
It’s never too heavy for a family audience but was enough to have this writer’s eyes welling up with tears on two separate occasions (passing the requisite “one cry” required for a positive review.)
With all this in mind, it’s actually a shame that Super-Pets didn’t aim higher. If only it could have shed its shackles and leaned fully into the elements that made it work.
Imagine if this movie achieved Pixar quality, heart-wrenching storytelling mixed with plenty of Warner Bros.’ trademark slapstick humour?
It’s nowhere near this standard but that feels like more the fault of conscious choice than any shortcoming inherent to the film and its creators.
DC League of Super-Pets flaunts quality but lacks ambition. It’s the pepperoni pizza of kid’s movies.
DC League of Super-Pets is in cinemas now.
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