Fresh off of The Mandalorian season 2 high, director Robert Rodriguez once again teams up with Pedro Pascal for his (sort-of) sequel to 2005’s The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Premiering Christmas day on Netflix, We Can Be Heroes gives the superhero genre an energetic and colourful treatment which the Spy Kids franchise similarly did for the spy genre. Rodriguez heartwarmingly made the film with his children, with the specific intention of subverting superhero team up films, resulting in a fun tale perfect for festive family viewing.
Earth’s mightiest team of heroes, known as “The Heroics”, have shockingly been kidnapped by giant tentacled alien invaders. It’s up to their super powered kids to work together to rescue their parents in order to save the day, but first they need to escape from their mysterious government babysitter, Ms. Granada (Priyanka Chopra Jonas). The children, led by the hugely intelligent Missy Moreno (Yaya Gosselin), must combine their varying individual powers to form an unstoppable team. The gifted youngsters possess a roster of abilities including time control, thanks to bickering siblings Rewind (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) and Fast Forward (Akira Akbar), liquid manipulation and shark strength courtesy of Guppy (Vivien Blair), Noodle’s (Lyon Daniels) elasticity and Wild Card’s ability to wield any known power.
With fun set pieces, fast pacing and silly, light-hearted comedy, this will undoubtedly be a hit with the younger generation of Avengers fans. Featuring an empowering message for children reminiscent of The Incredibles and Sky High, along with positive family values, We Can Be Heroes is a heartfelt outing. The humour is aimed primarily at young children, but there are a few nods to parents with a funny portrayal of a certain US president, Pedro Pascal’s character attempting to retire, along with a number of pokes at typical superhero tropes. Growing up with the Spy Kids franchise, I appreciate the fact that Rodriguez has fun with these films; yes the narrative is pretty predictable, but despite their flaws they’re so well natured and entertaining.
Featuring an impressive all star ensemble including Pedro Pascal, Boyd Holbrook, Christian Slater and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Rodriguez pulls no punches with the cast. Pascal continues to cement his so hot right now status following Wonder Woman 1984 and The Mandalorian, as a Tony Stark-esque father who retires from the superhero gig to raise his young daughter Missy (YaYa Gosselin). But it’s the young actors who truly steal the show, namely Vivien Blair as Sharkboy and LavaGirl’s daughter Guppy who’s truly adorable, with some impressive powers to boot. Emerging as the main leader of the young superheroes is Gosselin’s Missy, who notably has no powers but inspires self belief from those who do, proves a touching message. While the amount of superheroes included does get a little difficult to keep track of, it is great to see such a diverse group onscreen, particularly with such prominent female roles.
Rodriguez brings his usual colourful flair and slapstick humour to the action sequences, with the kids particularly excelling at the fun beat ‘um up type set pieces (Guppy throwing grown men across rooms was particularly amusing). The children impressively learnt all of the stunts and brought their own natural abilities (including parkour and martial arts) to the roles, which are showcased in a great training sequence. We Can Be Heroes is also a family effort, with Rebel Rodriguez (who played the young Sharkboy in the original film) writing the film’s score, Rhiannon Rodriguez drew all of Ojo’s iPad illustrations, while Rogue Rodriguez designed the alien spaceship set designs from the impressie climatic battle.
We Can Be Heroes is a hugely entertaining, family-friendly comedy full of heart which is perfect for the festive season. While I would have loved to see a surprise Spy Kids cameo, I did enjoy the nostalgia of a grown-up Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) and Sharkboy (JJ Dashnaw, in place of Taylor Lautner). I’d be surprised if we didn’t see more of this expanded universe in the near future!