I watched this film with a grain of salt.
WE CAN BE HEROES (2020)
I was hesitant to watch this movie. I knew it would be a continuation of the bombastic servings of the Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lava Girl films. I typically avoid films that seem over the top with effects that only exist to be babysitters for kids’ attention spans, but I decided to give this a chance anyway. It could've been my recent completion of season 2 of The Mandalorian that swayed me to watch this, as We Can Be Heroes is directed by Robert Rodriguez and has Pedro Pascal in its cast. I suppose I had expectations that were more presumptuous than grounded.
There is indeed something special in the water when a director’s flair is so signature that it is recognizable upon seeing the first few frames of a film. However, special doesn’t always mean amazing, or wonderful, or even good. Even from his more adult and grounded works such as Machete and Sin City, director Robert Rodriguez has carved a little niche for himself by shooting contrasting set pieces against digital plates. Sometimes it looks amazing; that is not the case in We Can Be Heroes. The opening sequence with Christian Slater and Boyd Holbrook skirting the atmospheric limits of Earth as an alien armada approaches looks awful. Rodriguez has digitally shot films way better. This was an assault on the eyes.
In the universe of SharkBoy and Lava Girl, superheroes guard the world from evil. When a fleet of alien warships descend upon Earth, these heroes known collectively as “Heroics” stand and fight. The aliens prove to be too much and capture all of the good guys, ostensibly leaving the world in mortal peril.
Back in the Heroics headquarters, the superheroes’ children have been sequestered to avoid capture themselves. Missy Moreno, the daughter of Heroics leader Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal), rallies the group of children to escape. All of these children have super powers of their own (except Missy) that range from practical to ridiculous. Even the daughter of SharkBoy and Lava Girl is in the mix. After escaping, this jumbled gang turn to teamwork and training to infiltrate the alien ship and rescue their parents. There were actually some fun surprises in this storyline that even caught me off guard. Unfortunately, there were also plot holes so glaring my eyeballs were doing backflips in my skull.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The acting here was as flat and unconvincing as the green room it was shot in. A lot of the captured parents have nothing to do in their holding cell besides squabble or watch television screens of their children’s efforts to rescue them. The latter resulted in a LOT of reaction shots of faces lacking emotion or conviction. There were absolutely too many characters. While I could keep track of everyone, that was only because all of their powers were shoehorned in for a plot device. The dialogue was vapid and tiresome. We Can Be Heroes was a chore to listen to.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
If I may harken back to my earlier comments on Rodriguez’s use of CGI, this method has become a stamp of his style. It does not work too well here at all, and I stand by this. The entire film looks like it was filmed in a giant green room, save for a few outdoor locations. I don’t have an issue with lots of CGI if it services the story or is threaded in smoothly. I will not be issuing such praises here. I feel confident that this movie was shot with over 90% digital effects. It is with that same confidence that I say that this technique made We Can Be Heroes look like a video game, and not a very good one.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
If there was a score from composer Rebel Rodriguez to be heard, I couldn’t remember a note of it. There are a few fun song references sung here though. One of the characters has a power to move objects or cause severe headaches with the timbre of her voice. Her cute moniker is “A Cappella.” She also treats everyone by singing bars from a few pop songs throughout. Of course, the classic Bowie hit “Heroes” is in her repertoire as well as “Don’t Speak” and an admittedly humorous use of the theme from “Chariots of Fire.”
I watched this film with a grain of salt. I knew going in that it was meant for children. And possibly the children who are now adults but grew up on the Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lava Girl franchises. This corner of cinema is filled with similar cheesy effects, plot contrivances, and wobbly performances. I know this because Wikipedia saw these films so I didn’t have to. Having not grown up with any of those movies myself, I didn’t feel the nostalgia or appreciation this film was undoubtedly striving for. I’m hopeful it found an appreciative audience elsewhere.