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We Can Be Heroes
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Robert Rodriguez
prd Racer Max, Robert Rodriguez
with YaYa Gosselin, Lyon Daniels, Andy Walken, Hala Finley, Lotus Blossom, Dylan Henry Lau, Andrew Diaz, Isaiah Russell-Bailey, Akira Akbar, Nathan Blair, Vivien Blair, Pedro Pascal, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Adriana Barraza, Boyd Holbrook, Christian Slater
release US/UK 25.Dec.20
20/US Netflix 1h36
Is it streaming?
Robert Rodriguez returns to his brightly colourful kids' superhero universe, sending a new cast of characters on an action-packed comical adventure. The target audience is clear, as it centres on a group of endlessly inventive children who set out to save the world. And while the twisty plot is plainly ridiculous, it's also a lot of fun, even when liberally dishing out messages about empowerment and teamwork.
Facing an alien invasion, the Heroics team recalls former leader Marcus (Pascal), who promised his sparky daughter Missy (Gosselin) he'd never suit up again. Director Granada (Jonas) has placed all the heroes' children in a security lockdown, and Missy discovers that she's the only one without superpowers. Then when their parents are captured, these 11 kids decide to take action, and Missy's quick-thinking helps them escape from the tenacious Granada, get some training from Grandma (Barraza) and travel to the mother-ship, where they discover that this is going to require a lot of outside-the-box thinking.
In Rodriguez's distinct one-man-studio style, the action sequences are big and crazy, packed with humorous touches as these children get a grip on their powers and come up with inventive ways to outwit the aliens. Effects work is whizzy and often enjoyably garish. And there's even a whizzy training montage as they study under the amusingly fierce Grandma. Of course, the main problems these kids face are the adults who either ignore or thwart them, and their primary challenge is to stop bickering like the grown-ups.
Performances are deliberately broad, matching the goofiness in the dialog at each step. The energetic young cast brings personality to each role, making each of these lively young people into a superbly strong character, anchored ably by Gosselin's natural leadership. They're surrounded by an all-star group of riotously up-for-it adults who each get a chance to shine without upstaging the kids. The scene-stealers include Jonas as the hilariously fussy director and especially Barraza as the training expert who has a carefully designed challenge for everyone.
It's not about who's the strongest or fastest, but about how well they can work together as a team. And the leader isn't the one who claims the job, but the one who innately knows how to bring them together. These messages are relatively subtle, with an added reminder that children are the best hope for guaranteeing the planet's future. It all gets absurdly huggy and sweet at the end, but by then Rodriguez and his gung-ho cast have earned all of it.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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