We can be heroes is a continuation of the cult children’s film from 2005 The adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, but it has more to do with the family-oriented, action-packed narrative of Robert Rodriguez’s first adventure for all ages. Spy kids.
Sharkboy and Lavagirl are back, but the premise that kids will inherit their parents’ legacy and stand up for their rescue reaches an emotional climax when the Cortez family banded together to fend off thumb-shaped minions. Rather than focusing on a family, Rodriguez puts together a large cast reminiscent of superhero team-ups like the Avengers, and an emotional message that evolves Spy Kids’ feelings for the current generation.
[Ed. note: This review contains some spoilers for We Can Be Heroes]
Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin), daughter of superhero Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal), is a bit exhausted from life fighting crime. Her father promised to stop doing heroic deeds after her mother died, but when aliens came to Earth he stepped in to help – and was eventually kidnapped along with the other members of his team of heroes. When the Heroics’ administrator, Ms. Granada (Priyanka Chopra), brings all the super kids together in a safe government location, Missy embarks on a rescue mission for her parents. She has no strength, but she manages to lead the children.
With 11 children with 11 different superpowers (well, 10, since Missy actually has no powers) and all parents We can be heroes juggles with a huge cast. But Rodriguez cracks his own “Avengers Assemble” moment in one of the most seamless superhero introductory sequences imaginable. Missy enters the classroom of the all-powerful children and meets every child and their powers – immediately afterwards the children all see their parents fighting the alien invasion on television. Every time a parent is captured, Rodriguez shows us how their child is reacting, reminding us of who is who, and gives a little reminder of what their powers are. We get a good feel for her personality, for her relationship with her parents, and the end of that scene instantly catapults the action into action as the children plan to break out and save their parents. It introduces and solidifies the characters, but pushes the plot further. The film rarely stagnates, and Rodriguez effectively uses every moment to prepare for the climax.
The kids’ super powers are also very resourceful and fun. The most traditional is Noodles, a kid with elasticity powers, but Rodriguez dreams up kids who can fast rewind and fast forward time, singing softly so that they can move objects and manipulate water while also possessing shark strength. (The guy loves shark powers.) A hard part of movies with super powered kids relies on balancing the cast and their powers, especially when some are overwhelmingly more useful than others. We can be heroes elevates each child and gives them different personalities, which is all the more impressive given its expansive cast. All children 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 Rodriguez’s other children’s films, We can be heroes is a visual delight. It’s bright, bold, and visually feels more like a comic than any modern superhero movie. Heroics Headquarters has a big old “H” and their agents’ badges have similarly designed letters. All adult superheroes wear garish, bright costumes (something that was shadowed by the kids who notice the colorful costumes made them easy targets for the aliens). The alien spaceship glows bright purple and channels the same fun, but scary vibe of Floops lock in Spy kids
And true to Rodriguez’s previous films, the heart of We can be heroes comes from parent-child relationships. The large cast leaves little room to build specific connections between the kids and their parents, but the main thread between Missy and her father is strong enough to get the film through. The other parent-child pairs support this emotional core, even if they are a bit one-dimensional themselves. And a beautiful twist end offers a heartwarming punch.
We can be heroes is a rarity: a children’s film that was actually made for children and that brings something special Spy kids to a new generation and a complete joy for yourself. Rodriguez picks up on more specific childhood and parenting themes and creates a film where the young cast can do just as cool things as the famous adults. It’s also a reminder that while being a kid is fun, it’s also important.
We can be heroes is available on Netflix today.