Robert Rodriguez is a peculiar filmmaker, for he’s essentially two directors in one human being: the grindhouse auteur of so many horror and science fiction offerings (Alita: Battle Angel), and the purveyor of kids flicks for wee young’uns who can’t yet tell a Lion King from an Island of Lost Dreams. We Can Be Heroes is a rarely funny, never involving, often poorly-written slice of pandering superherodom, a quasi-sequel to The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lava Girl. The youngsters at the center of the story, a cadre of sons and daughters to the world’s Heroics, are endearing enough and their characters possess unique abilities for the genre, but they’re also not seasoned or their characters developed well enough to hold our attention. We can foresee protagonist Missy Moreno’s leadership fate a mere few minutes into the movie, and a twist ending is ditto overly telegraphed. Rodriguez, bless his soul, has tried folding into such a silly endeavor a turgid message about political bickering and generational evolution. There’s something there, the notion that each generation improves on the last, however marginally. The bright colors and boneheaded humor, like a live-action cartoon in literal form, are far too distracting for any such messaging to matter. Every moment, every image, every word of dialogue, has been curated for maximum infantilization. Even seasoned actors and celebrities such as Pedro Pascal, Chris McDonald, and Priyanka Chopra are unable to overcome this, the boorish and cartoonish of it all. When Rodriguez is playing to the crowd of six year-olds, he can’t help but treat them like a lowest common denominator. He can do better than this.
P.S. Guppy, the little daughter of Sharkboy and Lava Girl, is pretty damn cool as evidenced above.