We Can Be Heroes

Director Robert Rodriguez basically has two settings: hardcore violent action (Desperado, Machete, Sin City) and children's' adventures (Spy Kids, Shorts). His latest, Netflix's We Can Be Heroes, falls into the latter category. It's a pseudo-sequel to his 2005 movie The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl that imagines the offspring of superheroes needing to save the world. This isn't the first picture we've seen along these lines – Sky High, for instance – but there's enough charm here to provide entertainment. I'd have lost my mind over it when I was ten.

Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin) is the daughter of Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal), a member of a beloved superhero team. Unlike her dad, she has no obvious powers. When a fleet of alien drones begins attacking Earth, Missy is whisked away to a special bunker where she's kept safe, along with the children of her father's teammates. They can all do amazing things. One kid moves in slow motion, another can stretch himself like rubber, and so on. A little girl named Guppy (Vivien Lyra Blair) can manipulate water; she's the daughter of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. This motley crew is presided over by the no-nonsense Ms. Granada (Priyanka Chopra Jonas).

Then the aliens kidnap all the superhero parents and threaten to breach the bunker. Missy realizes that it's up to the children to bust out so they can save their folks. They do, leading to an adventure where each child creatively gets to utilize their powers.

When working in family fare, Rodriguez (who also wrote the screenplay) allows his imagination to run wild. The abilities possessed by the youthful characters in We Can Be Heroes aren't necessarily original, yet what the director does with them is. One of my favorite scenes finds the kids boxed in by security guards. Their only way out is a skylight in the roof. To get up that high, one girl levitates the guards, turning them into a human staircase that the others can ascend. That's the sort of funny, tongue-in-cheek antics the movie is filled with.

The young actors are very appealing, and there are amusing supporting performances from Christian Slater and Sung Kang as two of the adult superheroes. We Can Be Heroes also boasts cool visual effects that accentuate the fantasy. If they looked too realistic, it would dampen the fun. Rodriguez makes sure that they make events look the way children would envision them. Everything about the picture is essentially designed as if it sprang forth from a session of play.

We Can Be Heroes is admittedly chaotic. In its efforts to entertain young viewers, the pace rarely slows down, the characters yell a lot, and there's barely a second where calmness prevails. I had a good time watching this movie, though. It reminded me of my own childhood days playing superhero. Today's kids are into such things even more than my generation was, so the film is certain to satisfy and delight them.

out of four

We Can Be Heroes is rated PG for mild action/violence. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.