Just last week, Robert Rodriguez was being lauded for being part of what is considered one of the best things to happen to the Star Wars Universe: The Mandalorian. This week, after dabbling with big budgets, he comes up with We can be Heroes, a spiritual sequel to his own film, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.
It’s a Spy Kids-meets-Avengers film. Aliens attack Earth. The superheroes (led by Pedro Pascal), known as the Heroics in this film, come a cropper. Nepotism comes into the picture, with the children of the Heroics getting pushed to the forefront. There is an Avengers-inspired spaceship that spits out smaller spaceships with which the superheroes get kidnapped. They are kept safe in a bunker by Ms Granada (a superbly hammy Priyanka Chopra-Jonas), the director of the Heroics programme. But then, when did any film kid ever listen to the adults and stay put? Each of the superkids use their superpower under the able guidance of Missy Moreno (YaYa Gosselin), who interestingly is the muggle among wizards and yet, the leader. We can be Heroes is a film made for kids, and the message is that anyone can be a hero, superpowers notwithstanding.
Just like his Spy Kids films, Rodriguez paints this film with dreamy colours like pink and perky purples, and shoots it as if the scenes were pages straight out of a kids’ comic. In one scene, a super-kid even comments that the villain’s lair feels made for kids. This is a film that is designed for kids, and this audience segment is best suited to enjoy the gags, the highs, the charades, the gadgets, the colours… But it isn’t all for children.
The film takes potshots at the big-ticket superhero films, for being needlessly destructive. Missy and her friends express their unhappiness about their superhero-parents fighting villains in crowded areas. In some ways, Rodriguez tries to level up the film for the not-so-young audience members, but the saccharine ending, and the overall simplicity makes it quite clear who he’s targeting with this film.
Growing up, we didn’t ask logical questions of Spy Kids or The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, and simply took in the sights and sounds created by this whimsical filmmaker. For this generation of kids, Rodriguez has created We can be Heroes. The kids are safe, so long as this filmmaker is around. The adults may want to wait for a version of Sin City though.