• Nate Adams

Review: Hyper 'We Can Be Heroes' far from heroic


Courtesy of Netflix

Robert Rodriguez, the mastermind behind “Spy Kids,” arguably one of the best children’s franchises, is stepping back into the imagination realm with the incoherent “We Can Be Heroes” which is positioned as a potential Marvel Cinematic Universe for D-grade superheroes on Netflix.


Once brimming with wild and imaginative narrative feats, Rodriguez hasn’t captured the true spirit of a kids film since the original “Spy Kids,” often striking out with duds “Shorts'' and “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.” Nobody will say the filmmaker, who often draws on his own children for inspiration, lacks imagination, “We Can Be Heroes'' is packed with the stuff, but it’s never harnessed in a way beneficial to audiences who at home will likely need to turn the brightness down on their TV to keep up with Rodriquez’s flashy visual style. Or face getting whiplash.


Like “Spy Kids 3-D” which was about 80% CGI and green screen, “We Can Be Heroes” is no different. Everything is artificial with minimal practical effects, designed to keep children distanced from a thin narrative that amounts to squat. In a cross between “Sky High” meets “The Avengers,” Rodriguez’s “We Can Be Heroes” puts kids at the forefront. Except this group of kiddos are a unique bunch, the spawns of superheroes who fight crime everyday. There names usually match their unique powers, for example “Rewind” (Isaiah Russel-Bailey) and “Fast Forward” (Akira Akbar) can manipulate time; “Noodle” (Lyon Daniels) can bend and contort his body like Mr Fantastic; “Wheels” (Andy Walken) has a supercharged and slick wheelchair; and “Guppie” (Vivien Lyra Blair) - the adorable offspring of Sharkboy and Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) - can construct objects with water around her.


Together the group, along with unofficial leader Missy (YaYa Gosselin), team up after their superhero parents are kidnapped to stop a slimy alien menace. It makes for a harmless venture that has plenty of candy coated sweetness to keep the youngest entertained, even if Rodriquez achieved the concept while taking adderall. But there’s no substance besides the obligatory montages where kids learn to use their powers for good, and stop the bad guys, which in this case are a batch of humans/aliens with octopus tentacles coming out their backs.


Again, nobody is docking this movie for lack of imagination.


In reality, “We Can Be Heroes” - which has assembled a nifty, shouldn't-be-this-good-but is supporting cast including Pedro Pascal, Priyanka Chopra, Christian Slater, Boyd Holbrook, Sung Kang and Haley Reinhart - visual style doesn’t mesh with the overall story mechanics. Rodriquez literally throws concept after concept in the hopes something will land, but there’s only so much our brains can handle before sensory overload kicks in. Here I was hoping “We Can Be Heroes” - thanks to the inclusion of Sharkboy (which, criminally, didn’t see Taylor Lautner reprise his role) and Lavagirl - was going to feature Rodriquez’s A-list roster of past characters for maximum effect (spoiler: none of the Cortez clan makes a cameo). Instead, we got a bunch of kids flying around in a glossy, hyper stylized landscape with sharp political undertones (the children say things like “How did this guy become president?” While judging his political agenda, because eight and ten year olds keep up on that sort of thing) and another lame children’s movie that only speaks to the core demographic, and even then, I’m not sure they’ll have much fun.


Grade: D


WE CAN BE HEROES is now streaming on Netflix.