A colorful antidote to grim superhero movies

If you’re the kind of superhero enthusiast who would like to ask, “Why so serious?” To dark fanboys who live off Joker memes and other dark, gritty signifiers, “DC’s League of Super-Pets” is a goofy and colorful throwback to those 1950s and 1960s comics that didn’t allow any costumed avengers to go a -sidekick-ed.

While not quite as anarchic or outrageously hilarious as “Teen Titans GO! to the Movies,” this latest animated all-ages adventure from DC Comics and Warner Bros. nonetheless has — and delivers — plenty of peer-to-peer fun. on all fours of a Justice League that’s more “Super Friends” than Snyder Cut.

We open to the final moments of planet Krypton, where puppy Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) hops into baby Kal-El’s spaceship to join him on his time on Earth. Decades later, Krypto is a staunch ally of Superman (John Krasinski), aiding him against villains like billionaire megalomaniac Lex Luthor (Marc Maron). When Krypto begins to resent his master’s time and attention to reporter Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde), Superman considers getting another dog so Krypto can have a friend.

The shelter they visit features a motley crew of animals, including Ace (Kevin Hart), a dog obsessed with escaping and taking his fellow inmates to a magical place known as the “Upstate Farm.” ; eternally optimistic pig (and Wonder Woman fan) PB (Melissa Bayer); kittish squirrel flea (Diego Luna); and geriatric, short-sighted tortoise Merton (Natasha Lyonne).

Also occupying a cage at the shelter is hairless guinea pig Lulu (Kate McKinnon), who was released against her will from a LexCorp lab but continues to think of herself as a “colleague” of the supervillain. When Luthor tries to bring down an orange kryptonite meteor, which he thinks will give him superpowers, Lulu uses a homemade ray to grab a fragment for herself. What Luthor doesn’t realize is that Orange Kryptonite grants powers, okay, but only to animals.

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A newly telekinetic Lulu, with the help of other transformed guinea pigs, captures the Justice League and even tricks Krypto into eating a shard of green Kryptonite, stripping him of his powers. (You can’t blame her, she hid it in cheese.) To save Superman and his teammates, Krypto must now rely on the super-powered shelter animals exposed to Orange K: Ace is now invulnerable, PB can stand reduce to the size of a teacup. or stretch to the state blue ribbon winner, Chip can fire lightning bolts and Merton has super speed. Along the way, Superman’s best friend will learn things about dogs from Ace, from how to use his nose to learning to let go when your pal falls in love.

It’s a delicate balance of concocting a plot with stakes and tension without ever taking it all seriously, but it’s a feat pulled off by director Jared Stern (“The LEGO Batman Movie”) and co-writer John Whittington (“Sonic the Hedgehog 2”). Granted, it might also help if the film’s executive producers included such veteran tone jugglers as Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (“I Love You Philip Morris”) and Nicholas Stoller (“The Muppets”); either way, “DC’s League of Super-Pets” knows how to be both involving and self-deprecating.

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The script is also good at throwing jokes at children (there’s a “Paw Patrol” gag that will make four-year-olds around the world think, “I’ve got this reference!”) and adults (Winona Bradshaw voices the adorable but homicidal kitty Whiskers, who borrows catchphrases from ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘The Warriors’ as she corners her prey).

The art department and production designers are on the same page with the DC Universe version shown here. Among the company’s multiple story-space Earths is where Metropolis is a combination of mid-century skyscrapers and futuristic towers, where Luthor wears bright green science armor while firing big beams violets in the sky. It’s an aesthetic that runs throughout the film and matches the playful tone of the jokes and vocal performances. (Also occupying the space between the epic and the ridiculous is Steve Jablonsky’s score, “Red Notice.”)

Like many movies aimed at younger audiences, this one gets a bit bogged down trying to get serious. Ace gets a flashback that clearly takes aim at the poignancy of the “When She Loved Me” sequence in “Toy Story 2,” but it never nails a Pixar-level assault on the tear ducts. To its credit, rather than indulging in the easy laughs of talking to kids about what dogs do when they go for a walk, such activities are thankfully suggested more often than described.

In true superhero movie fashion, the film offers a few buttons during the closing credits — one sets up a sequel, the other indulges the star — but again, nothing like that. what happens in “DC’s League of Super-Pets” doesn’t seem particularly important. , or trying to create several years of franchise follow-up, and it’s almost exhilarating and liberating in the current climate.

“DC’s League of Super-Pets” opens in US theaters on July 29.