Review: The Rock, Kevin Hart lend voices to kiddie Super Pets movie

Dwayne Johnson and John Krasinski in DC League of Super-Pets (DC Entertainment)

“DC League of Super Pets” probably wasn’t made with you in mind.

Most 6- to 12-year-olds don’t bother to read movie reviews, and the computer-animated movie featuring the voice talents of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Krypto the Superdog and Kevin Hart as Ace (the soon to be Bat-Hound) is squarely aimed at the younger set.

It’s a family movie that’s fun in that context, but it’s not a film that rises to the level of watchability for adults of a Pixar movie or the best Disney animated films.

It clearly has a morality play weaved into its mild blend of pee and poop jokes and comic-book lore, but the movie’s watered-down narrative, concocted by director and co-screenwriter Jared Stern and co-screenwriter John Whittington, plays down to the audience a bit too much.

It’s not a great movie, but it is a pleasant and fun one if your expectations aren’t set too high. If your young kids like super-heroes, you might have fun watching them enjoying the the film’s colorful and action-packed blend of chaos and comedy.

The movie is about friendships, and how they change as we grow, mature, and add other relationships to our lives. This plays out as Krypto begins to deal with how Superman’s (voice of John Karinski) blossoming relationship with Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde) creeps in on his relationship with his master.

Krypto basically copes by making new friends with a gaggle of pet-store refugees led by Ace, who gain super-powers after being exposed to Orange Kryptonite. Vanessa Bayer voices PB, a potbellied big who can grow or shirk. Natasha Lyonne is Merton, a funny female turtle who gains super speed. Diego Luna voices Chip, a squirrel who gains the power to channel electricity.

Keanu Reeves and Kevin Hart in DC League of Super-Pets (DC Entertainment)

They are opposed by Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon), a hairless guinea pig who escaped from Lex Luthor’s (voiced by Marc Maron) lab who is bound and determined to punish Superman for harassing her master.

She empowers several of her guinea pig buddies to help her take down members of the Justice League, including Batman (voiced by Keanu Reeves), Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Cyborg, Flash and Aquaman.

Krypto, Ace, and the Super-Pets team up to save the Justice League from the nefarious Lulu and her minions.

The set-up for the movie delightfully shows us how Superman and Krypton escaped doomed Krypton with a throwback to 1978’s “Superman the Movie” that I particularly enjoyed, and the film’s climax where the Super-Pets team up to battle a demonic, giant-sized Lulu in hopes of saving the Justice League is exciting. What’s in between also has its moments, too, but it’s admittedly and up-and-down ride.

This is a film that could be fun for families with young kids in the theater, but it is certainly not a classic in any way, shape, or form.

If you have HBO Max, it will pop up on that streaming platform like all Warner Bros.’ productions in 45 days if not sooner. It might be a lot more fun to take in this one at home on a family night, rather than incurring all the extra expense of seeing it in the theaters.

(PG) 1 hr. 45 min.
Grade: C

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Classic Corner – Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

Maureen O’Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan the Ape Man (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

As a kid, Saturdays were Tarzan Day for me. As much as I enjoyed Saturday-morning cartoons and championship wrestling, I loved watching MGM and RKO’s Tarzan movies even more. In fact, the first movies I loved featured the Lord of the Jungle.

Those 12 films from the 1930s and ’40s are what I consider the “classic” Tarzan movies. They starred Olympic champion swimmer Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan and Maureen O’Sullivan as his mate, Jane. Cheetah the chimp and the generically named Boy (Johnny Sheffield), Tarzan and Jane’s adopted son, were also in on the fun for kids and adults alike.

Now, these movies aren’t much like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels, and with the earliest ones being 90 years old, some might find various issues with the films. The are, indeed, of their time. But they are also exciting, adventurous, romantic, and humorous if you can suspend your cynicism long enough to enjoy them.

The movies were incredibly popular in first run and later as a staple of Saturday television from the 1950s through the 1970s across the U.S. before there were hundreds of channels and streaming options available.

Though more than a dozen actors played Tarzan on the big screen and TV, Weismuller was Tarzan to a couple of generations of movie fans, and anyone who has ever seen one of his Tarzan movies can holler a version of his distinctive jungle cry.

I remain one of those fans today. Tarzan movies occupy some of my earliest movie memories, and they no doubt played a great role in generating my love for old movies. I had probably seen all 12 of these films three or four times before the age of 10. The local CBS affiliate in Memphis ran them weekly on Saturday at noon in a loop along with the Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes movies, Lone Ranger compilations, and other adventure films of the golden-age of Hollywood.

On tap this Saturday at 11 a.m. on Turner Classic Movies is “Tarzan the Ape Man,” which introduced Weissmuller and O’Sullivan. It’s not the best of the Weissmuller Tarzan films, but it does set the groundwork for all the movies that came later.

Weismuller’s third film in the series “Tarzan Escapes” from 1936 is probably the best of the 12, but my favorite is 1942’s “Tarzan’s New York Adventure,” which was the final movie in the series made by MGM.

The budget shrunk considerably for the final six RKO films, and Weismuller’s physique wasn’t what it once was. My brother referred to the RKO movies as “Fat Tarzan.”

O’Sullivan left the series as Jane with the switch in studios, and the plots got even more outrageous, but the movies in some ways grew a bit closer in spirit to Burroughs’ novels after 1943’s “Tarzan Triumphs” in which Tarzan takes on Nazis who wind up in his jungle oasis.

If you’ve never seen any of these films or haven’t in years, check out MGM’s first Tarzan flick from 1932 at 11 a.m. central time Saturday on TCM.