“We Can Be Heroes” stars Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Pedro Pascal, Haley Reinhart, YaYa Gosselin, Boyd Holbrook, Sung Kang, Taylor Dooley, and Christian Slater. Released on Netflix on December 25, 2020, the film is about a group of children who must work together to save their superhero parents.
The film was written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, who also directed films such as “Desperado”, “From Dusk till Dawn”, “Spy Kids”, “Sin City”, and “Alita: Battle Angel”. It serves as a spin-off to the 2005 film “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl”. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. When it comes to this film, they really put the emphasis on “sizes”. In addition to his work on some adult-rated films like “Sin City” and “Machete”, Robert Rodriguez also made himself known with his work on some bizarre, yet somehow charming, family-friendly material, most notably the “Spy Kids” franchise. While some of them weren’t able to impress everyone with their goofiness and their visual style, especially the fourth “Spy Kids” film, they have that sense of kid-friendly imagination to provide some entertainment value. I grew up watching “Spy Kids” as well as “Sharkboy and Lavagirl”, so I was pretty curious to see Rodriguez returning to his goofy, child-like roots with this latest superhero film. With that in mind, let’s travel back to the director’s “kid-tastic” world and see if it’s worth watching during the holiday season.
Set in a fictional Earth, the film tells the story of a team of superheroes known as the Heroics. Not only do they fight to protect their city from evil, but they also have kids who have super abilities as well. When an alien race invades Earth and captures the planet’s mightiest protectors, their kids are sent to Heroics Headquarters, lead by Ms. Granada (Jonas), for protection. However, one of those kids isn’t going down without a fight, and that’s Missy Moreno (Gosselin), the daughter of the retired superhero swordsman Marcus Moreno (Pascal) and the only kid who doesn’t possess any powers. Missy would have to form a team of her own with the other super children in order to save their parents as well as the world. In other words, it’s “Spy Kids” meets “Marvel’s The Avengers”. For those who are unfamiliar with Rodriguez’s other family films, the only way I can describe his style in the film is that it’s equivalent to seeing a child’s dream. It’s zany and light-hearted to a fault, but it’s also pretty endearing to witness. While it helps to cheer up people that are in need of some silliness, this type of style doesn’t usually work all of the time when it comes to the storytelling. “Sharkboy and Lavagirl”, “Shorts”, and the recent “Spy Kids” film from 2011 were the examples that happened to prove that theory. “We Can Be Heroes” did happen to be the latest victim to fall into some familiar trappings, but it had enough charm and imagination in its concept to make it another watchable addition to Rodriguez’s kiddie collection. The film featured plenty of big-time celebrities, such as Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Pedro Pascal, and even Boyd Holbrook from the Netflix series “Narcos”. It also had Taylor Dooley reprising her role as Lavagirl from “Sharkboy and Lavagirl” for the sake of pleasing some fans of that film as well as Christopher McDonald, who reprises his role as the President of the United States from “Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams”. So for those who grew up with Rodriguez’s other family films, this film is pretty much a glorious trip down memory lane. However, the real stars of the film were the kid actors, including YaYa Gosselin. The performances from the cast ranged from enjoyable to below average, but the kid actors did make an effort to hold the film together, especially Gosselin, who did all right with her performance as Missy, and Vivien Blair, who delivered some pretty humorous moments as Guppy, the daughter of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. As for the visuals, they were acceptable, especially the CGI effects. Some of them weren’t exactly convincing because of its low budget and its awkward stunt work, but other than that, they’re fine. The script and the characters were basically the main issues that could turn away plenty of people who haven’t watched “Spy Kids” or “Sharkboy and Lavagirl”. Even though the story delivered some entertaining moments and offered a heartwarming message about teamwork, Rodriguez’s script can be a bit too corny for its own good. It’s very simplistic, for better or for worse, yet also cute. However, some of the dialogue couldn’t quite capture the proper balance of cringe and silly as they lean a bit towards the former. The characters themselves weren’t exactly well-developed or memorable either, but they’re delightful enough to power their way out of mediocrity.
Overall, “We Can Be Heroes” should impress plenty of families with its goofy and uplifting charm, but its heroic deeds might not be enough to satisfy those outside of that group. Robert Rodriguez made a kid-friendly version of “The Avengers” that’s more corny than emotional due to its flawed script and average characters. However, its likable cast and the director’s ability to combine its cheesy, low-budget quality with its bizarre and comical appeal are enough to keep me entertained. I usually enjoyed Rodriguez’s oddball style when I was young, but now that I am older and more wiser, I’m starting to see that it does have its share of problems. Nevertheless, it will still remain a place in my heart for how surreal and enjoyable it is. If you’re a fan of the director’s filmography, most notably the “Spy Kids” films, it’s worth a watch on Netflix.