We Can Be Heroes
Director – Robert Rodriguez
Cast – Priyanka Chopra, Pedro Pascal, Haley Reinhart, YaYa Gosselin, Boyd Holbrook, Sung Kang, Taylor Dooley, Christian Slater

With virtually nothing in it for the people who actually pay for Netflix subscriptions, We Can Be Heroes is the sort of kids movie that is pretty much inaccessible to anyone over the age of 13.

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, who has, to put it mildly, one of the strangest filmographies ever, it feels like the culmination of a creative experiment that the filmmaker has been tinkering away at for decades. We Can Be Heroes is a stealth sequel to Rodriguez’s 2005 film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, but the cat was let out of the bag before the movie’s release — probably because this film’s target audience wasn’t alive when Sharkboy and Lavagirl were adventuring (in 3-D!).

Watch the We Can Be Heroes trailer here

 

Tying We Can Be Heroes to his old film, however loosely, is perhaps the only attempt that Rodriguez makes at appealing to adults — besides, of course, a subplot that involves a President who can’t string a sentence together, because he’s so dumb.

Priyanka Chopra hams it up as Ms Granada, who is essentially a power-suit-wearing manifestation of corporate America. She’s the evil CEO of Heroics, a team of superheroes who’re kidnapped by tentacled aliens in the film’s opening scenes. With the planet under attack and their parents in peril, it falls upon their children, led by Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin) to rescue them from the aliens and save the world.

Priyanka’s got the pitch of her performance right — We Can Be Heroes is a silly movie, in which everyone is operating on cartoon frequency — but I wish she’d have chosen one accent and stuck to it. Is Ms Granada supposed to be Hispanic? Then why does she sound like a SoBo girl who spent a semester abroad?

Pedro Pascal in a still from We Can Be Heroes.
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Ryan Green/NETFLIX © 2020
)

While the adults have very limited screen time across the board, Priyanka plays quite a pivotal role in the movie. In fact, poor Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook appear to have drawn the short straws. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me they finished filming all their scenes in a couple of days.

Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me Rodriguez finished filming the entire movie in a week. It has the sort of DIY aesthetic that was cute (and even a little admirable) back when the filmmaker was a Rebel Without a Crew, but he was unshackled from restraints such as limited budgets and lack of studio support years ago. He no longer needs to perform every job on the film — as per usual, Rodriguez is credited as director, writer, producer, editor and cinematographer here — but this might be the only way he knows how to make movies.

Well, that’s unfortunate. Because only a few weeks ago, he helmed one of the best episodes of The Mandalorian. And we all saw how enjoyable his Alita: Battle Angel was last year. He works better in conventional set-ups.

Just because a film’s made for children doesn’t mean it has to be juvenile. In its final moments, We Can Be Heroes tries to have its cake an eat it too — but it’s too little too late. It ends with a warm message and the promise of a sequel. Worryingly, Rodriguez doesn’t have the best track record with those.

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

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