We can be heroes is a sequel to the cult children’s film from 2005 The Adventures of Shark and Lavagirl in 3-D, but has more in common with the family-focused action full of Robert Rodriguez’s first adventure, Spy Kids.
Sharkboy and Lavagirl are back, but the premise of children taking their parents ’legacy and reinforcing them to save them reaches emotional climaxes when the Cortez family teamed up to fight thumb-shaped minions. Instead of focusing narrowly on one family, Rodriguez brings together a large lineup reminiscent of superhero teams like the Avengers and an emotional message that develops Spy Kids ’feelings for the current generation.
[Ed. note: This review contains some spoilers for We Can Be Heroes]
Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin), the daughter of superhero Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal), is a bit stunned by life in the fight against crime. Her father promised that he would no longer be a hero after his mother’s death, but when the aliens arrived on Earth, he jumped in to help – and was eventually kidnapped along with other members of his heroic team. So when the Heroics administrator, Mrs. Granada (Priyanka Chopra) gathers all the super-kids in a safe government place, Missy embarks on a rescue mission for their parents. She has no power, but manages to step up to lead the children.
With 11 kids who have 11 different superpowers (well 10, because Missy doesn’t really have the power), like all parents, We can be heroes juggling a huge cast. But Rodriguez cracks his own moment of “Avengers Gathering” in one of the craziest sequences of a superhero introduction imaginable. Missy enters the classroom of superpowered children and gets to know each child and his powers – right after that, the children watch their parents fight the alien invasion on television. Every time a parent is caught, Rodriguez shows us how their child reacts, reminding us of who is who and also reminding us of their powers. We get a good sense of their personality, their relationship to their parents, and the end of that scene immediately introduces a plot into action as the children plan to break out and save their parents. He introduces and reinforces the characters, but continues to suppress the action. The film rarely stagnates and Rodriguez effectively uses every moment to upgrade the climax.
The children’s superpowers are also very imaginative and fun. The most traditional is Noodles, a child with the powers of elasticity, but Rodriguez dreams of children who can speed back time and rewind time, sing so softly that they can move objects and manipulate water, while possessing the power of a shark. (The guy loves the powers of sharks.) The tricky part of films about children with superpowers relies on balancing the cast and their powers, especially when some are predominantly more useful than others. We can be heroes it elevates each child, giving him different personalities, which is all the more impressive given his expansive cast. All the kids get a special moment to shine in the final battle that takes place in an alien spaceship that looks like something out of a children’s coloring book.
Like other Rodriguez children’s films, We can be heroes is a visual pleasure. It’s bright, bold, and visually acts more like a comic than any modern superhero movie. There is a big old “X” on the Heroics headquarters, and their agents’ badges come with similarly shaped letters. All adult superheroes wear ugly, vibrant costumes (something that children overshadowed, noticing that colorful costumes made them easy targets for aliens). The spaceship glows bright purple and directs the same fun, yet sinister vibration of Floop’s castle Spy Kids many years ago. The action sequences take full advantage of children’s entertainment powers – like many tentacle aliens, and eventually some pencil-drawn creatures come to life. In that sense, they take the weird kicks of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. It’s fun and dynamic to watch.
And true to Rodriguez’s past films, heart We can be heroes comes from the parent-child relationship. The large cast leaves little room to create special bonds between the children and their parents, but the main thread between Missy and her father is strong enough to carry the film. Other parent-child couples reinforce this emotional essence, even if they themselves are somewhat one-dimensional. And the nice screw ends with an enchanting punch.
We can be heroes is a rarity: A children’s film actually made for children, brings out what is special Spy Kids to the new generation and complete enjoyment in itself. Rodriguez delves into more specific childhood and parenting themes while creating a film in which a young cast can do cool things like famous adults. It’s also a reminder that while a child is fun, it’s also important.
We can be heroes is on Netflix today.