We Can Be Heroes Review
Raise your hand if Spy Kids gave you unrealistic dreams of finding out your parents were once dashing and fearless secret spies and you could now be one too? Robert Rodriguez’s 2001 film was warmly received by critics and audiences alike. After all, it was the perfect kids film; it had cool gadgets, plenty of excitement and funky looking villains, but most importantly, it had a ton of heart.
Another Rodriguez staple is The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, released 4 years after Spy Kids. The film wasn’t received quite as well – it currently holds an abysmal 19% critics score and 33% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes - but has still somehow earned a sequel of sorts in the form of We Can Be Heroes which owes more to Spy Kids than it does to Sharkboy and Lavagirl.
Tying very loosely to the characters of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, We Can Be Heroes instead centres on Missy Moreno (a wonderful YaYa Gosselin), the daughter of superhero Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal) as well as various other superhero children. When their parents are captured by a bunch of aliens, it’s up to the kiddies to save the day. They must learn to use their powers as well as work as a team if they want to save their parents and the entire world.
Rodriguez has always been interested in homage and the obvious. The likes of Planet Terror and Alita: Battle Angel have relied heavily on the films that came before and inspired them and in that respect, We Can Be Heroes feels similar. It’s not particularly original and Rodriguez’s script feels too obvious and packed full of awful, cringe-worthy dialogue that only Pedro Pascal seems to be able to pull off with some self-awareness and comic timing.
Yet, it feels bad by design. Rodriguez isn’t a bad filmmaker; he knows how to set up a scene, shoot action sequences and raise the stakes. He has just directed one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian and even Alita has some merit to it. That being said, there is very little in here that anyone over the age of 9 can enjoy, but maybe that’s the point.
It feels inherently wrong reviewing a film that isn’t meant for a grown adult, never mind a cynical film critic. We Can Be Heroes is silly, loud and colourful and will most definitely keep the younglings entertained while also teaching them a valuable lesson about finding your power and working as a team for a greater purpose. This inevitably leads to a discussion of whether films aimed at children should work for adults too and Pixar has certainly built their reputation by appealing to both kids and adults.
The most adults will enjoy are the appearances by known actors, most notably The Mandalorian himself, while Christian Slater and Boyd Holbrook also pop up. Priyanka Chopra has the meatiest role of all the adults and is clearly having all kinds of fun as Ms. Granada, the leader of the organisation that works with the heroes.
While it will keep the kids entertained, We Can Be Heroes feels clichéd and strained. Its colourful and delightfully weird visuals can’t save a tired narrative and Rodriguez’s silly script. The child actors are compelling and having a lot of fun, but also offers another example of putting a non-disabled actor in a wheelchair, wasting an opportunity for better representation and inclusivity.
We Can Be Heroes streams on Netflix worldwide on December 25.