From Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (the original, and still the best), to any of the Toy Stories, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and, of course, last year’s absolute smash, Encanto, cartoons are not just for the kids (it takes a real man to blubber proudly when Mufasa meets his maker, I’ll have you know).
Indeed, 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (the first animated flick in the Spider-Man franchise) grossed $375.5 million worldwide, and those tickets weren’t just in the pockets of the youngsters. Hoping to replicate the success of this animated superhero effort, today sees the general release of DC League Of Super-Pets – a tale of empowered pals with paws, in the familiar world of the DC Comics universe.
Directed by Jared Stern in his theatrical directorial debut, this flick is packing the vocal talent in to the rafters, with characters voiced by Kevin Hart, Kate McKinnon, John Krasinski, Diego Luna, Keanu Reeves and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Using all of their own considerable powers, these stars are all out to spearhead this one to silver screen glory, and prove that not all great heroes walk on only two legs.
Also landing today, our own Olivia Colman stars in emotional road movie, Joyride – a tale of two unlikely buddies that showcases the burgeoning talent of young newcomer Charlie Reid in superb chemistry with our favourite Oscar-winning queen. Outstanding as ever, Colman shines in a role a little different to those we’re used to seeing her in, but one in which she is no less commanding. Let’s take a closer look at the latest offerings...
DC LEAGUE OF SUPER-PETS (PG, 106 mins)
Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland)
Every dog, potbellied pig, turtle and red squirrel has its day in an exuberant computer-animated comedy based on DC Comics characters, who first appeared in print 60 years ago.
The feature film directorial debut of Jared Stern, one of the screenwriters of The LEGO Batman Movie, shares creative DNA with that rumbustious picture distilled into an irreverent script co-written by John Whittington.
Tails wag when an excitable pooch answers the call of a Batman-shaped vinyl squeaker and a deadpan Dark Knight (voiced by Keanu Reeves) observes the reverie and growls: “That better be a licensed toy… or I will freak out!”
DC League Of Super-Pets enthusiastically goes for walkies with familiar characters including Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman but shifts focus to the motley crew of critters who will join the Justice League as valiant sidekicks.
It’s an outlandish origin story on paws, flippers and trotters that tugs shamelessly on animal lovers’ heartstrings and gifts Kate McKinnon a plum vocal role as a furless antagonist with self-delusions of grandeur who is, by her own cackling admission, “a few guineas short of a pig!”.
Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart rekindle their bickering bromance from the Jumanji films as canine compatriots, whose initial distrust mellows – predictably – into unerring loyalty.
Krypto the Super-Dog (Johnson) fights alongside Superman (John Krasinski) in Metropolis, thwarting the evil schemes of arch-nemesis Lex Luthor (Marc Maron).
“Superman and I are inseparable. I’m his ride or die,” observes the otherworldly pooch, who sports a matching red cape attached to a gold collar.
The unbreakable bond between Kryptonian exiles is tested when Superman prepares to propose to Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane (Olivia Wilde).
Disharmony ripples across Metropolis just as Lex Luthor’s former laboratory guinea pig, Lulu (McKinnon), enacts her diabolical scheme to abduct the Man Of Steel and fellow members of the Justice League including Batman (Reeves), Wonder Woman (Jameela Jamil), Aquaman (Jemaine Clement), The Flash (John Early), Cyborg (Daveed Diggs) and Green Lantern (Dascha Polanco).
Krypto temporarily loses his abilities and places his trust in a misfit team of newly superpowered animal shelter escapees comprising Ace the hound (Hart), PB the pig (Vanessa Bayer), Merton the turtle (Natasha Lyonne) and Chip the squirrel (Diego Luna).
DC League Of Super-Pets strikes a pleasing balance between action-oriented set pieces and interspecies angst not too far removed from The Secret Life Of Pets (also featuring a lively vocal performance from Hart).
Stern’s picture, co-directed by Sam Levine, has moments when it truly soars (“Pup-up and away!”) and there is clear potential for a family-friendly franchise to trot alongside darker forays into a sprawling live-action universe of tormented heroes and villains.
A couple of additional scenes embedded in the end credits provide additional giggles and cute cross-promotion.
JOYRIDE (15, 94 mins)
Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland)
A foul-mouthed road trip across Ireland salves deep emotional wounds in director Emer Reynolds’ old-couple caper that trades heavily in contrivance to reach a wholly predictable final destination.
Energised by gorgeous on-screen chemistry between Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (sporting a lilting accent) and 14-year-old newcomer Charlie Reid, Joyride takes whimsical detours to showcase the rugged beauty of County Kerry and inflict blunt force trauma with a central message that loving families can be chosen rather than inherited by bad blood.
In arguably the best scene, Reid’s scallywag, wise beyond his years and well-versed in nappy changing from tending to young nieces, helps Colman’s nervous and reluctant mother to breastfeed successfully for the first time.
The characters’ intimacy in this potentially awkward moment is conveyed with exquisite tenderness.
Their duet of a TV theme tune accompanied by Tommy Tiernan’s ferry boat captain on whistle is delightful if extraneous to a ramshackle plot.
Flashes of brilliance aside, screenwriter Ailbhe Keogan embraces implausibility with a ludicrous, high-speed escape from the law and a stand-off with airline staff.
A joyride is supposed to be a perilous, high-speed jaunt in a stolen vehicle but director Reynolds prefers to hit the brakes than the accelerator.
Twelve-year-old Mully (Reid) collects glasses and belts out a rousing rendition of Cab Calloway’s Minnie The Moocher at a fundraising night for the cancer hospice that cared for his late mother Rita.
Before last orders at The Greyhound, the kind-hearted tyke discovers that his conman father James (Lochlann O’Mearain) intends to abscond with the donations to settle spiralling debts.
In a fit of anger, Mully snatches the money from his pa’s hand and leaps into the driver’s seat of a waiting taxi, unaware that hungover solicitor Joy (Colman) and her baby are slumbering in the back.
When Joy jolts back to consciousness, she forces Mully to accompany her on a haphazard road trip to Kerry Airport via the home of a best friend who will be taking care of the newborn while she is in Lanzarote.
En route, Mully breaks down Joy’s emotional defences and compels the “practical and solution-oriented” solicitor to confront painful memories of her neglectful mother, who passed away nine months ago but still casts a long shadow.
Joyride relies heavily on Colman and Reid to overcome deficiencies in the script with raw emotion.
FIRE OF LOVE (PG, 93 mins)
Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)
Love feels the heat in an award-winning documentary feature directed by Sara Dosa.
Narrated by Miranda July, Fire Of Love celebrates French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who spent their lives capturing dramatic footage of volcanoes.
Galvanised by their fascination with one of Mother Nature’s most destructive forces, the Kraffts travelled around the world, chasing eruptions and lava flows to capture these dramatic moments in photographs and on film.
The couple’s dramatic footage enriched our understanding of the natural world and highlighted volcanologists’ fearlessness and their boundless spirits of adventure. Drawing on footage from the Kraffts’ vast archive, Dosa’s documentary paints a vivid portrait of two explorers, who ventured into the unknown for the sake of love and lost their lives in June 1991 in Japan pursuing their passion.
PARIS, TEXAS (12A, 146 mins)
Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)
Continuing the two-month celebration of the work of prolific German filmmaker Wim Wenders, which began on June 24 with the release of a 4K restoration of Wings Of Desire, the director’s celebrated 1984 road movie returns to selected cinemas.
Paris, Texas received its world premiere at the 1984 edition of the Cannes Film Festival where it collected three prizes including the top award, the Palme d’Or. Set to a haunting score by Ry Cooder, the film sows the seeds of a tantalising mystery when Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) emerges suddenly from the desert, four years after he disappeared.
Awkwardly reacquainted with the ebb and flow of everyday life, Travis cannot resist searching for his old flame Jane (Nastassja Kinski) in the vain hope of healing old wounds of his fractured family.