Director Robert Rodriguez returns to the superhero genre in Netflix's We Can Be Heroes. Serving as a standalone sequel to The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, also directed by Rodriguez, We Can Be Heroes takes place in the same universe. When alien invaders kidnap Earth's superheroes, their kids are whisked away to a government safe house. Still, whip-smart tween Missy Moreno (Yaya Gosselin) will stop at nothing to rescue her superhero dad, Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal). Missy teams up with the rest of the super kids to escape their mysterious government babysitter, Ms. Granada (Priyanka Chopra Jonas). The kids soon realize if they're going to save their parents, they'll have to work together. Teaming up and using their individual powers — from elasticity to time control to predicting the future they an out-of-this-world team.
The plot is simple enough. While I had never seen The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, I enjoyed Rodriguez's Spy Kids films even before becoming a parent. Not to mention his previous movie Alita: Battle Angel was an enjoyable popcorn 3D spectacle. Much to my dismay, though, I didn't find too much enjoyable in We Can Be Heroes. The film starts out promising with a great scene featuring Christian Slater & Boyd Holbrook as superhero partners Tech-No & Miracle Guy before introducing us to the Moreno's Missy and Marcus. While the scenes with the daughter and father are good, when Missy finally links up with the other off-springs of superheroes, the film loses steam. YaYa Gosselin is good, and I'm sure she will go on to better things, but even child actors can have a stinker on their resume.
None of the kids impressed me with their powers outside of Isaiah Russell-Bailey as Rewind and Akira Akbar as his sister Fast Forward. Those two have great chemistry and provide some of the better scenes in the film. The rest of the kids' acting is straight out of a Disney Channel movie. The only one who does anything remotely memorable is Vivien Lyra Blair as Guppy, Sharkboy, and Lavagirl's daughter, who steals every scene she's in.
Sans Pedro Pascal as Marcus Moreno, the majority of the adults in the cast are clearly only here for a paycheck. The usually enjoyable Priyanka Chopra as Ms. Granada is on autopilot. Even my twelve-year-old son was able to predict where her arc was going to go. The sentiment also holds for Sung Kang as Kung-Fu Man, who deserves much better roles, while Christopher McDonald is just there as the President of the United States.
While I do commend the chemistry of the young cast and the film's message about teamwork, overall, We Can Be Heroes may have come across better as a limited series instead of a full-length feature. Perhaps because I hold the similarly themed Sky High in such high regard. That film proved you can tell a story about superhero kids that appeals to both parents and adults. The only saving grace for me with We Can Be Heroes is the quasi happy ending of kids reuniting with their parents. Young audiences may find something to love in We Can Be Heroes, but everyone else will likely be bored.
Final Grade C-
We Can Be Heroes is streaming on Netflix now.