Archive for the Adventure Category

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family on December 23, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An old English proverb states: “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays.” After defeating a giant monster, Puss in Boots is unexpectedly crushed by a massive falling bell. The critter has been an active feline and has now exhausted eight of his nine lives. One more crazy adventure, and he is kaput. However, if he finds the legendary wishing star, he can restore his nine lives. And so begins his mystical quest aided by returning love interest Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and a therapy dog they name Perrito (Harvey Guillén)

Puss in Boots is a feline fugitive from the law but a hero of the town of San Ricardo, Spain. The character made his first appearance in Shrek 2 and is the current ongoing legacy of that franchise. This entry is technically a follow-up to Puss in Boots which came out in 2011 — over a decade ago. Most of that movie’s young fans are now adults. That’s ok because (1) this picture is so fun, a person of any age can enjoy it, and (2) it has little narrative connection to the original. This is the best kind of sequel, a standalone narrative, AND it improves upon its predecessor.

With all due respect to the celebrated voice of Mel Blanc, I’d suggest that Antonio Banderas is one of the greatest marriages of an actor to an animated character. He’s that effective in evoking a distinct persona. When he speaks, I feel connected to this personality. That goes a long way into making this a quest in which I am invested. A gang of new characters is introduced—some with fairy tale origins but with a twist. So we get Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman & Samson Kayo) with cockney accents and an evil crime lord in the form of “Big” (formerly “Little”) Jack Horner (John Mulaney) as well as an elderly cat lady (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).

The Last Wish is a pleasant swashbuckling diversion. The goal is stunning visuals and amusing jokes, and the production delivers both. The computer graphics are a vibrant display that occasionally relies on painterly designs that resemble storybook illustrations. The visual aesthetic is more influenced by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Akira than the realistic style used in the Shrek series. The gags aren’t all guffaws, but they are plentiful. If there’s a complaint, it’s that this saga is such a frenetic rendition of a simple tale. Watching our champion attempt to secure his objective by using an animated map while multiple antagonists try to stop him is not unlike a video game. But that can be a compliment too. The story moves, and it’s never dull.

12-19-22

Avatar: The Way of Water

Posted in Action, Adventure, Fantasy with tags on December 19, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It was thirteen years ago that director James Cameron wowed audiences with Avatar. With a box office of $2.9 billion, it still ranks as the highest-grossing film worldwide. Now he has finally returned with its sequel. Avatar: The Way of Water is set on Pandora, an extrasolar moon from the Alpha Centauri System. With an unintentional nod to the Fast & Furious franchise, it’s all about family. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña are back as parents: Jake and Neytiri. They manage an extended clan that consists of two sons (James Flatters & Britain Dalton) and a daughter (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss ), as well as an adopted daughter Kiri (Sigourney Weaver). Her mother is Dr. Grace Augustine, who was mortally wounded and perished in the original. There’s also a human boy named Spider (Jack Champion), the son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang).

Once again, evil colonizer humans invade Pandora. The “Sky People” are led by Quaritch, who technically died in the previous installment. However, he’s back in a slightly different form thanks to scientific advances. Jake and his family realize their presence has put the fellow citizens of their forest dwelling in danger. As a result, they exile themselves from that area and retreat to the sea. There they meet a new community on Pandora led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet). Despite their altruistic desire to avoid conflict, you can best believe a monumental battle is imminent.

The plot is a simple tale that preaches environmentalism over industrialism. That lesson is amusing coming from a director who reportedly spent $350 million to make this picture a high-tech stunner. The director has never been about sense or subtlety, but whatever. It’s all about the visual exhibition. The Way of Water delivers that using the most extravagant methods available. Reportedly, this is the 4th most expensive movie ever made, and it looks it. Advanced motion capture perfectly mimics the actors playing Na’vi characters. The technology not only impressively reproduces their underwater manipulations while swimming but their facial expressions as well.

It all builds to an epic showdown. The climax is a massive water-based confrontation between the invading humans vs. the native Na’vi. The latter gets a generous assist from aquatic creatures. The spectacle makes up for the deficiencies in the story. My frequent quibble: it’s far too long. The production is a patience-testing 3 hours and 12 minutes. Cameron could have easily trimmed an hour out of this bloated narrative to make it a little more efficient and enjoyable. Lengthy sequences exist to simply highlight the splendor of Pandora. The marvels of marine animals include a prolonged focus on alien whales. Part of the chronicle is akin to a nature documentary. Granted, it is gorgeous. See this in 3D on a big screen in a theater to fully appreciate its beauty and wonder. I was enthralled.

12-15-22

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Posted in Action, Adventure, Drama, Superhero with tags on November 14, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The mood of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is somber. That’s to be expected. The shadow of Chadwick Boseman looms large, and his absence is felt. However, director Ryan Coogler addresses this head-on right at the beginning. Ramonda (Angela Bassett), the Queen Mother, announces that T’Challa has succumbed to an unknown illness. His passing is then followed by a grand funeral procession to celebrate his life.

At first glance, the country of Wakanda may appear to be a ship without a sail, but Coogler reframes the production around the strong women. The chronicle finds room to detail the poignant journeys of Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Aneka (Michaela Coel). However, no one individual is more troubled by the loss of T’Challa than his sister Shuri. Actress Letitia Wright ably carries most of the emotional weight. Trying to cope with the fact that her brother is now gone and accepting new responsibilities defines Shuri. Her mother, the Queen, provides significant support. When Ramonda arrives at the United Nations, Wakanda is chastised for keeping the rare metal vibranium to build weapons of mass destruction. She forcefully deflects that accusation with a dynamic response. Ramonda gives another passionate monologue later before the Tribal Council. “I am queen of the most powerful nation in the world, and my entire family is gone! Have I not given everything?” I wouldn’t be surprised if Angela Basset gets a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role here.

The African-based Wakanda managed to avoid colonization, and now another land must do the same. The CIA unknowingly infringes upon the kingdom of Talokan when it uses a special machine to detect a deposit of vibranium underwater. This exploration awakens a civilization of blue-skinned, sea-dwelling people. They suggest the inhabitants of Avatar but with Mayan and Mesoamerican cultural influences. The Talokanil lure the ship’s passengers to their death using a siren song. The leader of Talokan is a mutant with superhuman strength. Namor (Tenoch Huerta) is a malevolent presence but fiercely protective of his people and wants the creator of the vibranium-detecting machine dead. He appeals to Ramonda and Shuri for help. However, conflicting ideologies ultimately pit Wakanda against the underwater city of Talokan.

These are the underlying conditions for an overstuffed story that succumbs to a frequent problem: editing. The second-longest film in the MCU is stretched to a bloated 2 hour 41 minute runtime. Only Avengers: Endgame is longer. Unnecessary characters are shoehorned into a crowded ensemble of various tangents to further other properties. The most blatant example is child prodigy Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), an MIT student. She’s introduced as a prelude to the upcoming Ironheart Disney+ series. However, actors Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as CIA operatives with intersecting backstories, also divert focus away from the main saga.

Despite some minor quibbles, this is a rousing sequel. Wakanda Forever manages to pull off the daunting task of respectfully honoring Chadwick Boseman’s memory while delivering the action-packed entertainment we expect from Marvel. The best scenes are quiet moments that provide an emotional foundation from engaging performances. These set the stage for the special effects-laden setpieces we expect. Featuring one of the more memorable villains in the MCU, Namor is a pointy-eared antihero who goes to battle while flying around on little winged feet. The action may not be the most vibrant we’ve ever seen in a Marvel production. Nevertheless, the spectacle resonates because the screenplay has established compelling stakes. Oh, and I can’t forget to give a special mention to Ludwig Göransson’s score. The eye-popping visuals are beautifully enhanced by rich music that hits hard when it needs to and pulls back when the feeling is enough. “Wakanda Forever” isn’t just the title of the movie. It’s also the most soul-stirring instrumental of the year. This is a superhero picture firing on all cylinders.

11-10-22

Werewolf by Night

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy with tags on October 12, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

An eclectic group of monster hunters converges on the estate of dearly departed Ulysses Bloodstone. They are there to compete for a powerful relic — also called the Bloodstone. The gem affords protection, strength, and longevity to the possessor. One caveat, they’ll have to fight a dangerous beast to get it. Among the seven attendees are the enigmatic Jack Russell (Gael García Bernal). He may not be a Terrier, but he does have a hairy problem. Elsa Bloodstone (Laura Donnelly) is the daughter of the recently deceased, a fellow monster slayer who is both Jack’s rival and teammate — but conspicuously not a love interest. Harriet Sansom Harris portrays Verussa, Ulysses’ eccentric widow.

Werewolf by Night is a unique offering in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness dipped its toe in the horror waters. Composer Michael Giacchino (Ratatouille, Up) — making his directorial debut — completely dives in. That singularity is part of this picture’s charm. The narrative spotlights a decent protagonist (Jack Russell) that doesn’t want to cause harm. Everyone else is on a different page. Also enticing is the use of practical effects and black-and-white cinematography. This allows that jewel to shine even brighter as it glows ruby red.

Just in time for Halloween, this creature feature provides a seasonal but forgettable experience for MCU completists. This adaptation is based on a Marvel comic book character first introduced in 1972 and then updated in 2020. Giacchino evokes the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930s and ’40s. Taking you out of that milieu is bloodshed that is significantly more graphic than the films of that era. That’s fine. Perhaps this is meant to be a marriage of the present and the past, but only in a very superficial sense. In comparison, The Wolf Man (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr. had real emotional stakes.

So why does this exist? I suspect this production will ultimately serve to introduce elements we will see later in the MCU. Jack Russell and Elsa Bloodstone are a given, but I hope to see another appearance of Man-Thing. The plot is inconsequential piffle. Oh, sure, necks will be ripped, and people will burst into flames. With all apologies to writers Heather Quinn and Peter Cameron, that is not the foundation for a screenplay you can sink your teeth into. (If this were a vampire flick, that would’ve been the perfect pun.) Falling somewhere between a feature-length movie and a half-hour TV show, I admire that this delivers a simple, self-contained story. Kudos that the saga wasn’t unnecessarily stretched to 2 hours. Yet even at 53 minutes, this “special presentation” on Disney+ is such a simplistic tale that it still manages to drag.

10-10-22

Pinocchio

Posted in Adventure, Comedy, Drama with tags on September 9, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Disney’s reliance on making live-action versions of their animated films really kicked into high gear during the 2010s decade. As a movie critic, I approach every remake for what it is — rather than what I think it should be. I’ve been more forgiving than most. I tolerated their critically reviled (but monetarily successful) reworkings of Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, and The Lion King to give them mildly positive reviews. However, the first five animated releases from Walt Disney Studios represent some of the greatest ever made, so the standard is admittedly higher when replicating these classics. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi, are sacred. Incidentally, 2019’s Dumbo was a dreary slog. Pinocchio isn’t nearly as bad, but it’s still a hollow shell of an adventure.

To its credit, Pinnochio — adapted from a screenplay by director Robert Zemeckis and Chris Weitz — at least duplicates the basic plot of the original. The main character (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) does look appealing too. The developments show some loyalty to the source material. Yet there is more to art than accurately recreating the scenes using CGI and human actors. The characters need to engage our emotions. There must be some joy, some spark that unites the production and makes us care. CGI is unnecessarily used to replicate everything from Geppetto’s pets Figaro and Cleo to a titan of the sea, Monstro. I get that a real whale would have been hard to tame, but why couldn’t they get an actual cat or goldfish? Tom Hanks doesn’t embody Geppetto with sincerity either. His goofily exaggerated performance reaches a zenith in one scene. Geppetto’s shock at discovering his wooden puppet can walk and talk on its own is an excessive display that would be an embarrassment coming from a first-year acting student, let alone a talent with two Oscars and over four decades of experience.

Director Robert Zemeckis makes some misguided choices. The filmmaker relies on self-referential humor, which takes you out of this movie as it promotes others. Geppetto is a wood carver that makes cuckoo clocks based on properties that Disney owns. Toy Story and Who Framed Roger Rabbit timepieces honor the studio while referencing Woody, the toy Hanks voiced and a feature that Zemekis directed. A minor quibble, but the decisions get more egregious. I get that Pinnochio is naive and there are ways to illustrate this amusingly. Showing a closeup of horse droppings that Pinnchio approaches and then sniffs is not one of them. When Pinocchio ultimately gets to Pleasure Island, it’s meant to be a decadent isle full of illegal activities like drinking beer, chewing tobacco, and smoking cigars. None of that happens. In this account, boys and girls drink root beer, eat candy, and light fireworks in a theme park. I’m sorry, but how is this sanitized depiction any different from what goes on at Disneyland every day of the year? When the children transform into donkeys, the computer rendering is garish. It’s grotesque but because the image is implausible and ridiculous — not due to its inherent scariness.

What more is there to say? Pinocchio is a redundant, soulless recreation that dutifully mimics the plot points but without the charm, wit, or spirit. I could go on, but doing so would be simply beating a dead horse…or in this case, a donkey.

09-08-22

Beast

Posted in Adventure, Drama, Horror with tags on August 22, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Dr. Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) ) is a single father who takes his two young daughters, Meredith (Iyana Halley) and Norah (Leah Sava Jeffries ), to a wildlife preserve in South Africa. While there, they are confronted by a ferocious lion determined to kill everyone and everything in sight. I don’t want to dismiss Beast as Jaws but with a feline, but that is basically the setup.

Man vs. nature can be the the foundation for a very entertaining film. “When animals attack” comprises a whole genre of cinema. Beast is nowhere near as outstanding as The Birds, but it’s decidedly more refined than the 1999 killer crocodile flick Lake Placid. Apparently, the lion is out for revenge because poachers murdered the rest of his pride. That’s a stretch. An untamed animal would never behave this way. Nevertheless, I was captivated by the various confrontations. There is a bit more drama than just a cat run amok. For one thing, Idris plays a father whose wife has recently passed from illness, so there are some unresolved tensions with his daughters. Sharlto Copley (District 9, Maleficent) also appears a wildlife biologist who is an old friend of Nate’s.

Beast is a competent thriller, a simple story efficiently told. I like that the movie knows exactly what it is – an uncomplicated shocker designed to produce thrills. As such, it was a brilliant decision to edit it down to a mere 90 minutes. Anything longer would be unnecessary. The MVP of this picture are the talenetd team in the sound department. We are frequently subjected to jump scares where the sound is so loud I literally jumped in my seat. Usually, I find those kinds of surprises a cheap way to elicit frights, but they are effective nonetheless. I’d be lyin’ if I said this was innovative, but it’s still a roaring good time.

08-18-22

Thirteen Lives 

Posted in Action, Adventure, Biography with tags on August 13, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

On June 23, 2018, a junior association soccer team went missing after setting out to explore the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in northern Thailand. The twelve boys aged between 11 and 16 and their 25-year-old assistant coach were on a sightseeing trip after a practice session. Shortly after entering, heavy rains overflowed the tunnel system, blocking their way out, and trapping them deep within. The subsequent attempt to rescue them became a massive operation that garnered worldwide public interest. Simply determining whether the children were even alive took days. British divers John Volanthen and Richard Stanton ultimately located the group on an elevated rock about 2.5 miles from the cavity opening. Wonderful news! Nevertheless, the ability to extract them from the flooded twisty cavern would be difficult. Even with scuba gear and guidance, the kids would likely panic during the long treacherous swim out.

There are so many perspectives from which to tell this epic tale. I was fascinated with the fortitude of the trapped victims. Somehow they survived over two weeks in a pitch-black cavern without food. Once discovered, there is mention of meditation. Their perseverance through prayer and hope is undoubtedly a fascinating saga. The details of their struggle are mentioned in passing. However, we don’t see the boys for a large portion of the picture. Theirs is not the endeavor presented here.

This is a tale about the British divers played by Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell and Australian medical specialist Richard Harris portrayed by Joel Edgerton. They saved the day when everyone else — even the Navy SEALs — could not. A casual glance at the famous names in the cast does not suggest an account focused on the vulnerable victims. The fact that Ron Howard (Backdraft, Apollo 13) is directing should have clued me in that the effort to extricate them takes center stage. Ok, that’s an exciting perspective too. Those men were genuine heroes. Their commitment is an awe-inspiring consolidation of human ingenuity that saved lives.

Yet the chronicle is not produced in a way that maximizes the drama. It always felt like we were observing these events from a distance. The individuals here are two-dimensional characters that lack personality. I derive more emotion from footage on the 11’oclock news. The excitement improves in the second half when the claustrophobic, muddy-water environment conveys just how difficult it was to save these lives from the underground chamber. Yet Ron Howard and editor James D. Wilcox frequently cut to less interesting activities on land that kill the momentum. Furthermore, the developments plod for nearly 2 1/2 hours. I’m not saying it isn’t an uplifting experience. It’s currently the most watched title on Amazon Prime, after all. (Box office flop The 355 was the previous #1). Although, I enjoyed it more divided up over two nights.

This life-affirming tale is inherently captivating. It would be near impossible not to make a thrilling picture out of this piece of recent history. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things is universally compelling. These ripped from the headlines stories are even more effective because they’re true. Ron Howard and screenwriter William Nicholson (working from a story by Don MacPherson) offer a movie that inspired me to read up on the actual account and watch the award-winning (and more efficient) National Geographic documentary The Rescue (2021).

08-07-22

Prey

Posted in Action, Adventure, Drama with tags on August 10, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

In 1719 a young Comanche woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder) is underestimated as a hunter by her tribe. She tags along with the band of boys to hunt a lion. They dismiss her with a “Who invited you? We won’t be gone long enough to need a cook.” Yet she persists. They soon discover that perhaps there is an even greater threat than the lion in their midst.

“Humans hunted by an intruder” doesn’t qualify as the foundation for a masterpiece in my book, but admittedly it’s all in how you present the idea. Prey is the fifth entry (not including the two Alien vs. Predator films) of the Predator series. At first, the title and drastic change in setting suggest a complete reinvention of the franchise. The action occurs on the Great Plains within the grounds of the Stoney Nakoda Nation in Alberta, Canada, and Calgary’s Moose Mountain and Elbow River. On-location shooting makes excellent use of these stunning locales.

This prequel combines science fiction with a Native American backdrop involving touches that scream linguistic authenticity. Director Mel Gibson was lauded for having actors speak Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic for The Passion of the Christ. Likewise, this story has dialogue in the Camanche language. There’s a significant portion in contemporary English too. In addition to the alien menace, Naru and her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) must contend with hostile French fur trappers in this anti-colonialist tale. When the tribespeople are captured and tied to a tree, Naru recounts a fable where a beaver chewed off its own leg to be free. After suggesting she might do the same, she quips in a modern accent more appropriate to the San Fernando Valley, “I’m smarter than a beaver.” If this was 2022 and Naru was on Twitter. #girlboss Note: Prey is also available in an alternate all-Comanche dub on Hulu.

Gorgeous cinematography (Jeff Cutter is the director of photography) and a gender-swapped role of the lead are the unique elements in this Predator movie. When 20th Century Fox unleashed the first chapter upon the public in 1987, the film was dismissed as an Alien clone. Over the years, its reputation has grown among the cognoscenti. The latest installment is being hailed as the “best sequel since John McTiernan’s original.” That’s a pretty low bar. I’ll admit director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) shows impressive restraint. Nevertheless, the buildup to actually seeing the creature is so gradual that it’s frustrating. We don’t even witness the predator (former professional basketball player Dane DiLiegro) clearly until fully halfway into the picture. He’s portrayed as a translucent blur accompanied by chittering sounds. The beast finally becomes perceptible when covered in blood after he attacks a bear. Not many surprises in this violent game of “kill or be killed” which ultimately limps to an inevitable conclusion. Apparently, extraterrestrials underestimate women just like their human counterparts.

08-05-22

Bullet Train

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Thriller with tags on August 5, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Brad Pitt is a movie star. I realize this is not some groundbreaking pronouncement. We’ve known this for a long time. Perhaps as far back as 1991 when he memorably played the handsome young drifter J.D. in Thelma and Louise. He turned that bit role into a star-making performance. The rest is history. Bullet Train has a massive cast, so it would be hard to stand out. Yet every time the quinquagenarian pops up, it’s akin to the zen calm in the eye of a chaotic storm. Sporting unkempt hair, glasses, and a bucket hat compels one character from the UK to quip, “You look like every white homeless man I’ve ever seen.” Seriously? The vagabonds in Great Britain must be really good-looking then. Brad Pitt is the glue that holds this dissonant mish-mash of a film together.

A team of various assassins with incongruous codenames from around the globe are traveling on the Shinkansen. The bullet train takes about two hours and 15 minutes to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto — with frequent 1-minute stops along the way. Ladybug (Brad Pitt) is tasked to steal a briefcase. He’s getting directions from his handler Maria Beetle (Sandra Bullock), an unseen voice on the phone. Little does he know that other cutthroats are onboard to stop him. Let’s see; there’s a pair of hitmen brothers, Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his “twin” Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry), British bad boy The Son (Logan Lerman), innocent-looking schoolgirl The Prince (Joey King) who is not so virtuous, and The Father (Andrew Koji), a troubled patriarch there to seek vengeance upon the individual who pushed his son off a roof. Let’s not forget The Hornet (Zazie Beetz), whose identity is largely secret, and The Wolf (Benito A. Martínez Ocasio, a.k.a. rapper Bad Bunny). He’s angry at whoever poisoned the wine at his wedding. Wow. Now that’s a gross scene I didn’t need to see over and over. Other killers — not on board but part of the narrative — include The Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada) and White Death (Michael Shannon). Oh, and there are a couple of memorable cameos too, but I won’t spoil the surprises.

The recipe for this cocktail of a story is to simply add the ingredients of disparate characters to one location and shake vigorously. Lest you think my encapsulation is dismissive, classics like Die Hard and The Raid got by on the same formula. I haven’t even mentioned that there’s a poisonous snake on the loose and a mysterious pink mascot from a popular children’s show named Momomon. Your mileage may vary, but ultimately, I warmed up to the film’s bonkers mentality. The silly glee in this live-action cartoon is just so zealous. The saga marries lighthearted dialogue with heavy-handed violence. Granted Final Destination treated the idea of death with more compassion. It’s a cynical approach. Director David Leitch worships at the altar of patron saints Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). Leitch is working from a screenplay by Zak Olkewicz, who adapts the Japanese novel Maria Beetle (published in English as Bullet Train) by Kōtarō Isaka. It’s a difficult juggling act for the filmmaker. He’s trying to keep a lot of balls in the air. Oh yeah, he drops a few. Particularly in the denouement when the action goes literally and figuratively “off the rails.” (sorry, but you knew that line in a movie about a train was going to appear somewhere). Nevertheless, the spectacle is still quite a show.

08-04-22

DC League of Super-Pets

Posted in Action, Adventure, Animation, Family, Superhero with tags on July 30, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You’ve enjoyed actors Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence and been enchanted by their chemistry in not one but two Jumanji movies. Yet you’re aching for more. Perhaps you’d like to experience their personalities in an animated saga about furry superheroes? Today I bring you good news.

DC League of Super-Pets is little more than an animated yarn seemingly inspired by The Secret Life of Pets, but it’s a lively reinterpretation. The tale concerns beloved critters that obtain superhero powers after being exposed to orange kryptonite. So for the uninformed, green kryptonite is bad, but orange is good. The story stars Krypto (Dwayne Johnson) — Superman’s (John Krasinski) Labrador Retriever — who possesses the same special skills as his master. The villain is a guinea pig named Lulu (Kate McKinnon ), who belongs to Lex Luthor (Marc Maron). She’s patterned her entire life on the Brain, that megalomaniac mouse of the Animaniacs. Well no, not technically, but that’s the level of characterization going on here.

Lulu is currently confined to an animal shelter but is able to acquire a shard of orange kryptonite. The element gives her super abilities. The other creatures at the pound inadvertently get powers too. The coterie of individuals includes a boxer dog (Kevin Hart), a pig (Vanessa Bayer), a turtle (Natasha Lyonne), and a squirrel (Diego Luna). However, unlike Lulu, they embody a good-hearted temperament. Conversely, there is also a kitty named Whiskers (Winona Bradshaw) that is not so well-meaning. After the humans in the Justice League are defeated and imprisoned by Lulu, it’s up to this superpowered team of strays to save the day. The adventure may sound rather incomprehensible, but it makes sense while you’re watching.

The most poignant moment in the DC League of Super-Pets unexpectedly occurs in the middle of the chronicle. Ace (Kevin Hart), a stray Boxer, recounts his backstory. He once had an ideal life in the home of a loving family. Then one day, Ace witnessed their toddler teetering on the edge of a flight of stairs. To rescue her from falling, he grabs the baby with his mouth. The parents hear their infant crying and only observe the little teeth marks on their toddler’s arm. They mistakenly think their dog has bitten her. Ace is removed from the household and taken away. The moment arouses genuine pathos. That random aside holds the seed of a narrative more compelling than the one the writers decided to pursue. The rest of this chronicle is rather frivolous and forgettable. That’s ok. I still enjoyed this lighthearted diversion.

07-28-22