In this fan's life, “Spy Kids” was a staple of my childhood introduction to film as a medium. Director Robert Rodriguez is someone who’s had an interesting filmography bouncing from hard R-rated action films, to the family favorites. His latest feature “We Can Be Heroes,” comes at an interesting time in his career, particularly after directing an episode of the hit show “The Mandalorian.” Our story follows a group of superheroes known as “The Heroics” (Pedro Pascal, Boyd Holbrook, and Christian Slater to name a few) who end up being kidnapped by aliens. This forces the children of “The Heroics” lead by the daughter of Pascal’s character Missy (YaYa Gosselin), who doesn’t have superpowers, to work with the other super-powered children to save their parents. What follows is something that may work for the younger generation, but for me came off as too little too late.
Throughout the film, you can tell that this cast and Rodriguez had a blast making something for families. Our group of child actors has a great comradery with one another and Gosselin as our lead is quite compelling. Clocking in at 100 minutes, we get a decent amount of time knowing these kids and how they exactly feel about being the kids of legends. It’s an interesting idea that the film touches upon, but isn’t explored as deftly as I wanted. When we initially meet “The Heroics,” the film teases a lot of wide-eyed larger than life superhero movie action. This interested me with the cast of actors like Pascal who play our heroes, but what we see in the trailer is all we get. This was a big disappointment to me because Rodriguez knows how to shoot action, and especially CGI action like last year's “Alita Battle Angel.”
Every time anyone uses their powers or fights the alien opposition, it’s entirely unbelievable. It seems like we get a peek into the VFX team’s first pass at the effects that need about another two months of work. Arguably the effects are the most frustrating thing about the film since it doesn’t give us as an audience an idea of the stakes. It comes across to an audience as lame and just unenjoyable. With coming across as so incredibly bland, there are a few moments of genuine fun to be had. Particularly in one supporting performance that connects to the broader cinematic universe Rodriguez has made.
Vivien Blair plays the character of Guppy, the child of infamous superheroes “Sharkboy and Lava Girl.” While we don’t see much at all of these characters—Taylor Lautner doesn’t reprise his role—Blair steals the show. As someone with the ferocious abilities of a shark and elemental manipulation, she’s a truly terrifying character. Simultaneously as the precocious and adorable 8-year-old, she’s the one character you really end up rooting for. This is a frustrating idea when you have this many characters to juggle. My only hope at this point is Blair gets more moments to show off the talent we only get a peek of here.
For something on Netflix, I’d be lying if I told anyone who reads this that it’s the worst thing on the platform. In a time where we all are spending a large amount of time at home, this could be something to float the boat of a whole family. Granted, there are much better choices out there such as “Soul” on Disney+. For younger children, such as ages 3-5, that’s the audience “We Can Be Heroes” should have targeted. Selling it as a nostalgia piece to revisit old characters makes it such a disappointment. It’s not even disappointing in the way of it being a “bad” film it’s one that’s just painfully forgettable.