WE CAN BE HEROES (2020) is a pleasant ride that caters directly to its young target audience

Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the mastermind behind Spy Kids and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, We Can Be Heroes sees Earth’s greatest superheroes captured by invading aliens, leaving their children to team up and save the world and their parents.

There’s no question that this film is heavily targeted towards kids – it’s zany, silly, campy and doesn’t provide much for the average adult to properly enjoy. In saying that, if you go into the film understanding exactly what you’re getting into, there’s definitely plenty of mindless, silly fun to get a kick out of. The story is a nice blend of the familiar and some quite surprising originality. For the majority of the runtime, it seems like it’s running on tracks – heading towards a familiar conclusion. However, as time goes on, it makes a creative choice or two that turns it into a pleasantly original journey. The narrative moves at a quick pace, constantly progressing the plot with little to no downtime – which really makes it feel like a short and sweet ride.

Robert Rodriguez’s style is all over this film, applying the same cartoony visual aesthetic, low-budget special effects and overall tone as Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lavagirl. That unique style is what gives this film its charm, playing into the campy humour and kid-friendly content. For kids, the comedic moments are plentiful – constantly playing into the silliness you’d expect if you’ve seen any of the aforementioned films. For adult audiences, there’s not much in here in terms of comedy to keep you wholly invested – it’s more just that you need to appreciate the originality and heart of the story, of which there is a good amount. With the fact that the screen-time is heavily devoted to the kids, with the adult actors sitting on the sidelines for almost the entire film, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a very specific target audience.

Speaking of the performances, the ensemble of kids at the forefront make a solid team when it comes to enhancing the overall film. YaYa Gossein leads the way with an endearing and at times commanding performance that carries the bulk of the film. She brings in a good amount of the heart, contributes to some humour, delivers dialogue quite well and is certainly the standout amongst the crowd. The rest of the young cast have their moments, but none stand out as memorable amongst the crowd. Actually, the young Vivien Lyra Blair also has some pretty nice comedic and action-filled moments, really committing to her scenes and standing out. There’s the occasional average line delivery from various individuals, but I’d hardly say the dialogue is the focus here. The adult cast features some big names, with Pedro Pascal, Priyanka Chopra, Boyd Holbrook, Christian Slater and more all bringing their acting chops for a few limited scenes. They’re all good in their moments and add to the pleasantness of the film.

I should mention, it’s also quite cool to see Sharkboy and Lavagirl feature in the film with Taylor Dooley returning to the role of Lavagirl. They appear on the sidelines, but it’s still cool to see for the sake of nostalgia alone.

In the end, We Can Be Heroes is a pleasant ride that identifies its audience really early and caters directly to them. For some films that can be quite limiting – leaving no room for older audiences to enjoy the story or the humour. But here, there’s some charm and heart to the story that I feel does well to add layers to it and prevent it from being just another average kids movie. There’s a sense of originality to the story and kids will love the campy and silly humour that is spread throughout. Robert Rodriguez delivers another fine gem that is sure to be a hit with its audience.

7.1/10

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