REVIEW: ‘We Can Be Heroes’ Puts The Future In Children’s Hands

Reading Time: 4 minutes

While we all know Robert Rodriguez for his Mexploitation cinema—such as Desperado and Machete or his vampire romp From Dusk Til Dawn—there are more of us still whose first introduction to the director was the family-friendly Spy Kids. While the many sequels to Spy Kids and Shark Boy and Lava Girl may make some roll their eyes at a film set in the latter’s universe, We Can Be Heroes is an exciting family-friendly film that is something I wish I had seen growing up.

Written and directed by Rodriguez, We Can Be Heroes is stunning, hopeful, and offers up a superhero story made for children in a way we haven’t really seen before. In the film, alien invaders have kidnapped Earth’s superheroes, a team known as the Heroics. Led by Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal), the Heroics features a diverse array of heroes including old faces, Shark Boy and Lava Girl. With the adults taken hostage by the invaders in front of their children, it’s up to the new generation of heroes to learn to work together if they want to save their parents and the world.

The first thing we have to note is that the cast of adult heroes includes two actors that genre fans will be excited to see. The first is Pedro Pascal and the second is Sung Kang. While a lot of the talk online revolved around Pascal’s big dad energy, We Can Be Heroes isn’t about the adults. While they get to have moments that shine, they exist to highlight their children. This means that the film lays squarely on the shoulders of its young actors.

Led by Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin), the team of heroes is not only the most diverse I’ve seen but also includes more Latinx characters than the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which, while there are Latinx actors like Tessa Thompson and Zoe Saldana, as well as others, the only Latinx character in the canon is Michael Pena’s side character). Too often, “diverse” ensemble casts rely on tokenism, but in We Can Be Heroes, each of the young heroes has depth and powers that don’t reflect stereotypes often associated with characters of color. Additionally, none of the children feels detached from the whole. Each one gets moments to shine and showcase that all of them can rise to the occasion. There is a character for every child to see themselves in. 

We Can Be Heroes

The cast itself is large, featuring: Guppy (Vivien Blair), the child of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Wild Card (Nathan Blair), a character who has limitless potential but no way to focus it, A Capella (Lotus Blossom), who can hit every note imaginable and some that aren’t, Noodles (Lyon Daniels), who can stretch, and Ojo (Hala Finley) who’s art is more than it seems. Then there are those with powers that reflect their names perfectly: Facemaker (Andrew Diaz), a boy with a power as on the nose as it sounds, twins Rewind (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) and Fast Forward (Akira Akbar), Slo-Mo (Dylan Henry Lau), and Wheels (Andy Walken). While each of these young characters are charismatic, it’s their group dynamic and chemistry that makes the film joyous. The joy comes from watching a group of young folks learn about themselves and the world, and all with a smile in the face of adversity.

Now, for adults in the audience, there are elements of We Can Be Heroes that won’t work. The costuming for the adults is really bad, comically so. They wear ill-fitting suits with bedazzled elements. But, they also look like suits designed by children, and we can assume that the children the film is made for couldn’t care less about whether Miracle Man’s suit fits him. Additionally, the humor doesn’t necessarily push to all-ages as Spy Kids did and while this may alienate the parents in the room, it’s not made for them.

The goal of the film is to teach those watching it that the future is in their hands and they will have to rise to meet it. While it may not be an overt message in the beginning of the film, training to use your powers and save those who were once tasked with protecting you is the rising reality that is burdening young folks. With climate change rapidly approaching the point of no return, a pandemic that has thrown the economy and the healthcare system into shambles, the next generations will face an uphill battle. We Can Be Heroes aims to tell them that they are ready for it, even if they don’t believe they are. As wisely put by abuelita Moreno: “That’s how you become ready. By doing it.”

While the film’s theme is extremely upfront, it meets children where they are and aims to empower them. We Can Be Heroes is a heartfelt letter about the future that aims to be inspiring. It’s a loving look at what children can do, and even though the kids in this film have superpowers, it’s easy to see the future in them. The beauty of being a Netflix Original is that We Can Be Heroes does not need to speak to adults. It doesn’t need to convince parents to buy a ticket and sit there with their kids, it just needs to speak directly to its young audience. On this note, it succeeds. While this movie isn’t for me, it is something I wish I had as a child to both see myself in and be inspired by.

We Can Be Heroes is streaming now exclusively on Netflix.


We Can Be Heroes
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

While the film’s theme is extremely upfront, it meets children where they are and aims to empower them. We Can Be Heroes is a heartfelt letter about the future that aims to be inspiring. It’s a loving look at what children can do, and even though the kids in this film have superpowers, it’s easy to see the future in them. The beauty of being a Netflix Original is that We Can Be Heroes does not need to speak to adults. It doesn’t need to convince parents to buy a ticket and sit there with their kids, it just needs to speak directly to its young audience. On this note, it succeeds. While this movie isn’t for me, it is something I wish I had as a child to both see myself in and be inspired by.