Released: 25th December
Seen: 31st December
Robert Rodriguez is one of the most fascinating filmmakers of our time. Known as the one-man film crew, he’s got a reputation for doing everything on set. Not only directing and writing, we’re talking handling the editing and cinematography and score of his films, he’ll even carry the damn Steadicam if that’s what he has to do to get the job done. He’s also very well known for working with a limited budget, preferring to come up with creative solutions to his problems rather than just throw money at it. He’s the kind of director who you always look out for because no matter what he makes, you can guarantee that it’ll be interesting in some way. Well, now Netflix has decided to get this filmmaker on their payroll and let him have some fun and god I hope this is the first of many Netflix funded Rodriguez films to come because the man knows how to make a fun family film, which is the quick description of We Can Be Heroes.
We Can Be Heroes follows the children of a group of superheroes, The superheroes, which include big names like Miracle Guy (Boyd Halbrook) and Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal) are all doing their normal jobs, with only the occasional building being crumbled during a fight, when suddenly a bunch of purple tentacled aliens come along and kidnap them all. This leaves their kids, who end up being led by Moreno’s kid Missy (YaYa Gosselin) to figure out how to get onto the alien spaceship and save their parents while learning about their own assorted superpowers.
Now We Can Be Heroes has been billed as a sequel to the infamous critical flop Sharkboy & Lavagirl and that’s true but in the same way that Avengers: Endgame is a sequel to Iron Man 2… technically accurate, some characters appear in both movies, but they’re telling vastly different stories that don’t relate at all and you don’t really need to see one to understand the other. Sharkboy and Lavagirl do turn up in this movie (albeit, Sharkboy has a different actor because I guess Taylor Lautner wasn’t available but Pedro Pascal was?) but they’re a glorified cameo designed to make people who were around in 2005 go “Hey, I remember you!” and that’s about it. It’d be like saying this is a sequel to Spy Kids 2 because it also features the president from that movie… the Rodriguez Cinematic Universe is a thing and it’s wonderfully weird.
The great thing about We Can Be Heroes is that it’s not taking itself too seriously, aware of its budget limitations and the fact that it’s aimed squarely at children the film is painfully aware that this is meant to be a big silly movie where kids have superpowers that look cool and can provide some cheap jokes and that’s what we get. Powers ranging from being able to rewind time (but only the last few seconds, a clever little caveat that prevents people asking dumb questions like “but why can’t they just go back X number of years and kill baby Hitler”) to being able to sing in any note which can be used to create a sound wave powerful enough to make a bus fly, all of them are well defined and explained so the audience can follow along and enjoy the ride.
The simplicity of We Can Be Heroes is its greatest strength. No one here is going for anything deep, they’re going for fun. The kid performances are all universally pretty great, you can tell they’re having fun and really sell the silliness of the concepts. The adults are probably having even more fun than the kids, especially Priyanka Chopra Jonas who is almost a living cartoon for the whole movie which fits in with the brightly coloured aesthetic that runs through the entire film. Everything about this film, from the performances to the colour palette to the sheer sense of fun is all turned up to 11 and it’s a joy.
Nothing about We Can Be Heroes is trying to be anything more than a good fun time for kids, it doesn’t talk down to them or treat them like idiots but instead provides them with their own superheroes to look up to, something we all need. I can imagine a lot of little kids feeling so happy seeing that they can be there to help save the day, that they can be the heroes just for one day (yes, the movie uses that Bowie song a lot… admittedly, kinda obvious that it needs to do that). It’s not challenging, it’s wish fulfillment and it’s a lot of fun.
We Can Be Heroes is the bright colourful piece of fluff that kids deserve. A family film that actually pushes for the importance of families and friends, it’s creative and silly and has just the right amount of heart to make it a good time for everyone. 2020 may have been exhausting, but watching this is a great way to get through the end of the year with a bit of a smile on your face.