DC League of Super-Pets, PG. 106 minutes. 3 stars.
At last a DC Comics Justice League movie that will love you unconditionally. And it won't bite the kids.
It has comic book superheroes, talking animals and Keanu Reeves - yes, John Wick not Ben Affleck - as the voice of Batman.
Think The Secret Life of Pets meets Man of Steel with dashes of the winning self-mockery of The Lego Batman Movie.
Pup, pup and away, as Kyrpto, the loyal super-pet of Superman, would say!
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and regular movie sparring partner Kevin Hart provide the lead voices and the main verbal schtick in this brash and noisy but adorably irreverent animated romp that will go down as well with comic book nerds and little kids as it will with supervising grown-ups. Yes, I know. Grown-ups can be comic book geeks too, so they will be doubly delighted.
As part of the DC universe, the film has the licensing rights to make comic chew toys out of all of those familiar superheroes, which allows for meta moments and cameos aplenty.
Johnson lends his vocal charm and swagger to Krypto, the Man of Steel's loyal four-legged sidekick, who flies everywhere with him - whether it's vanquishing bad guys or taking early morning flying versions of walkies over Metropolis.
A white labrador in a gold collar that contains a swirling red cape when duty calls, Krypto always puffs out his unusually ripped chest to boast that he's Superman's "ride or die". But he's worried about Supe's growing affection for Lois Lane. Is he about to lose his favourite spot on Clark Kent's couch when Bake Off is on the telly?
This brings Krypto into the orbit of Ace, an abandoned family pet who hasn't been rescued yet and who's not so sure he's cut out to be man's best friend again. Voiced by Hart, Ace is a pugnacious Boxer who's gruff and streetwise and cynical.
Ace, of course, will teach Krypto all the canine basics he's missed while being a high-flying hero. And Krypto will show Ace how to reach deep within to fetch his best man's-best-friend self.
The quip-trading odd-couple will do this while defending Metropolis against a diabolical villain the likes of which the comic book movie genre has never seen: a hairless guinea pig named Lulu.
Voiced by Kate McKinnon (from the all-female Ghostbusters remake), the purple-eyed, preening baddie is by far the best thing zinging in DC League of Super-Pets.
An ex-science laboratory guinea pig caged up with Ace and a motley crew of other animal shelter misfits, Lulu is all brain and resentment, her megalomaniacal tendencies caused by an unhealthy period in the company of super-villain Lex Luthor.
Lulu obtains some orange kryptonite, uncages a band of other lab guinea pigs and unleashes an evil plot to, well, given it's a comic book superhero movie, you know the rest. Yes, claws will come out, fur will fly and doggone puns will ricochet non-stop.
McKinnon's is not an overly familiar voice which perhaps allows us to fully savour Lulu's off-kilter rants, silky-voiced narcissism and scolding sarcasm.
In a cheap marketing ploy two of Lulu's guinea pig hench-pets are dubbed over for Aussie audiences by I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here hosts Dr Chris Brown and Julia Morris. The strine is jarring and their flat delivery of lines a distracting disconnect. To see in the credits we've been denied the schtick of Thomas Middleditch (TV's Silicon Valley) and Ben Schwartz (Parks & Recreation) adds to the disappointment.
A final note to parents. This is not Paw Patrol. The movie actually includes a joking reference to it not being Paw Patrol. It's rated "PG" for what the censors describe as "mild animated fantasy violence and coarse language". The potty mouth is a near-sighted tortoise with the power of Flash-like super-speed. Voiced dryly by Natasha Lyonne, the irascible critter's curses are bleeped out in the kind of way that guarantees a laugh, though parents may need to explain why the missing words are so funny.
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