I suppose it was inevitable, what with the MCU & DCU movies coming and going, that a movie featuring the pets of superheroes was right around the corner. Of course, Superman’s dog Krypto has already been seen on HBO’s Titans, so there’s that.
Sometimes dogs are not man’s best friends, case in point Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) who jealously loves his master, Superman/Clark Kent (John Krasinski) a little too much. This love is tested when Supes is going to propose to his girlfriend, Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde), and wants to get Krypto a new playmate at the local animal shelter. Naturally, this first dog of Krypton isn’t happy about it and wants her gone.
Meanwhile, inside that shelter, diabolical schemes are being hatched by Lulu the guinea pig (voiced by Kate McKinnon), an ex-experiment animal of villain Lex Luthor (Marc Maron). Using a slice of stolen orange Kryptonite, she and her fellow animals there are given superpowers! There’s a Boxer dog named Ace (Kevin Hart) who becomes super strong and indestructible, a pig named PB (Vanessa Bayer) who can grow to super-size, a super-speedy but near-sighted turtle named Merton (Natasha Lyonne), and an electrified squirrel named Chip (Diego Luna). Lulu uses her incredible powers to (you guessed it) rule the world by easily defeating the Justice League using her band of evil super-powered guinea pigs.
Lulu not only takes away Superman’s powers but Krypto’s as well, making him seek out Ace, PB, Merton, and Chip for help in defeating Lulu and rescuing Supes and the others. As the good pets form a team, Lulu wants her mentor, Lex, out of jail and then plots to destroy the Justice League for good! Bwahahahahaha!! In what’s basically a rehash of The Secret Life of Pets, but with superheros, screenwriters John Whittington (The Lego Batman Movie) and director Jared Stern (The Lego Ninjago Movie) have concocted a hit ‘n’ miss kids story that 20% of the time lands a decent joke or sight gag. So, expect a ton of dumb and stale dog jokes flying at you along with poop and pee ones as well.
Aimed squarely at little kids, the action is fast-paced to make up for the huge plot holes and rushed storyline. The animals are silly, goofy, and act irresponsibly, while the adults are just cardboard cut-outs. There’s a forced theme of ‘friendship’, ‘teamwork’, and ‘feeling of loss’ constantly talked about through the film that gets old real fast, including a Toy Story 2 rip-off moment. In fact, there is so much talk of this, that you beg for more superhero action, which is the only decent thing that happens. I really wish it were all about the Justice League and not about those annoying dim-witted animals!
It’s cool to see Superman, Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), Green Lantern (Dascha Polanco), Cyborg (Daveed Diggs), the Flash (John Early), Batman (Keany Reeves), and Aquaman (Jemaine Clement) all on screen, if only in animated form. And I’ll give points to the animators for throwing in a Big Belly Burger restaurant, which is a CW television Arrowverse inside joke. Nice touch! This is strictly for children and those die-hard comic book fanboys out there. Otherwise, wait till it comes to streaming cable, which it should be in about two months.
**Now showing only in theaters
In a bold move at Disney animation, Pixar’s John Lasseter came in and saved this movie from being the disaster it was becoming. The original story (called American Dog) was thrown out and this new one pumped up, improved, given a heart and a fantastic plot. Result? One of Disney’s very best underrated and brilliant animated movies.
Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin, Old Yeller, and Toto gots nuthin’ on Bolt! Taken from a pet store as a puppy, this lovable little white Shepard mix was immediately groomed by a huge movie studio for one purpose: to become a TV star! Five years later, Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) and 12-year-old Penny (Miley Cyrus) star in a hit television series called Bolt, in which a genetically-altered dog uses his various superpowers to protect a young girl (Penny) from various villains. But Bolt actually believes all of this, having been born and raised in the microcosm of the studio where his “superpowers” are just SPFX and his devastatingly powerful sonic “superbark” is faked.
After a studio exec sites “demographic issues”, a cliffhanger episode has Penny kidnapped, causing Bolt to escape from his on-set trailer in Hollywood to ‘rescue’ his beloved master. He accidentally gets shipped off to NYC where he resumes his search for Penny, finding his “superpowers” are useless. Thinking a mean feral cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) works for the evil Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell) who kidnapped Penny, Bolt threatens Mittens to take him back to Penny, even though Mittens is convinced her captor is a lunatic. Thus starts their long journey westward by truck, cars, motorhome, etc.
Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Penny is distraught over Bolt’s disappearance but is told by the studio to continue filming with a less experienced lookalike dog. At a campsite, Bolt and Mittens meet a rabid Bolt super-fan. Rhino (Mark Walton, a Josh Gad sound alike), a hamster-in-a-ball, know-it-all about the TV show, and wants to join them on their quest. While all this happening, Bolt is slowly learning the harsh truth about himself. . . he’s just a dog. Coming to grips about NOT being a super-dog is bad enough, but being told this by a cat? Devastating. After adventures and life-threatening perils on the road, they finally reach Hollywood after a pit stop in Las Vegas.
When Bolt enters the studio and sees that he’s been replaced, it’s hard to keep the eyes dry. The ending, complete with a daring rescue and Bolt coming back is just about great as it sounds. In my opinion, Bolt ranks right up there with Pixar’s Ratatouille and The Incredibles as some of the finest animated feature films ever made. Just watch the opening eight minutes action sequence. It rivals any TV or movie action that the MCU or DCU has offered! Written by Dan Fogelman (Cars, Tangled) & director Chris Williams (Big Hero 6, Moana), this patented “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry” movie is pure awesomeness.