In an interview with NPR back in 2003, writer/director/editor/anything-he-can-do-he-will-do filmmaker Robert Rodriguez mentioned that he prefers working at nights and spends day-time hours with his kids (mostly named after cool things he would have in his movies). No wonder that every once in a while, amidst his grindhouse-inspired and comic book style filmography, he will create some family-friendly kid movies that bring along his trademark elements—comic book style heroes, cutting-edge gadgets, Latin relatives, and quirky plots most importantly. On the Christmas Day, the director revisits his 2005 creation, The Adventure of Sharkboy and Lava Girl, and expands it into a more wholesome, lite superhero action, We Can Be Heroes.
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Taylor Dooley returns as a grown-up Lava Girl, but Taylor Lautner is nowhere to be found even when Sharkboy makes a come-back as well. As it turns out, the heroes from Rodriguez’s 2005 movie are a part of Avengers-like association called The Heroics. Among the world’s finest heroes that includes Lava Girl, Sharkboy, Tech-No (Christian Slater), Mircale Guy (Boyd Holbrook), Blinding Fast (Sung Kang), Ms. Vox (Haley Reinhart), and others, a master swordsman, Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal) leads on the field under the command of Ms. Granada (Priyanka Chopra), The Nick Fury figure of the group. When a mysterious alien invaders attacks the Earth, The Heroics are deployed but immediately finding themselves overwhelmed. As the heroes fallen, the Earth’s only hope relies on the Heroics’ kids led by Moreno’s daughter, Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin).
There’s nothing particularly new in We Can Be Heroes. The plot, paradoxically, is a hybrid of Spy Kids and The Adventure of Sharkboy and Lava Girl intended for family-friendly entertainment. It’s unsurprisingly predictable but, in the process, Rodriguez manages to have tons of fun flaunting what he does best—translating his imagination affordably on screen. The scene where the kids showcase their own super-powers derived from their parents’ powers exudes playful moments. While some of the powers look like a lackluster product of exhausted mind, the director knows exactly how to stage it for a light, cheap entertainment. At the same time, it makes a fun matching game as we keep guessing whose kid these supes are.
Rodriguez holds his Mariachi-spirited filmmaking credo dear even in We Can Be Heroes. He makes the comic-book tropes and visual effects affordable (in a careful avoidance of using the word ‘cheap’) but still fits his cool agenda. The action sequences are haphazardly slick even when they become monotonous after some times; but, the genuinely simple moments like how super-kid twins, Rewind and Fast Forward, exercise their super ability is a guilty pleasure moment. By any standards, it never reaches the height of Spy Kids, but, in the end, it seemingly never takes itself too seriously.