While some may know him from Sin City and Machete fame, my generation knows Robert Rodriguez as the creator (and writer/director/editor) of iconic films like Sharkboy and Lavagirl and the Spy Kids franchise. Whether he’s making action films or kids’ films, Robert Rodriguez has never made a film that was not fun. We Can Be Heroes is no different. It’s got all the classic markings of a kids adventure film: ridiculous spy tech, silly costumes, quippy one-liners from precocious kids. The plot is a classic kid superhero plot, where for some reason the parents are out of commission and the kids have to take over. (Sky High anyone?) A refreshing twist is that all the kids’ powers are...kind of useless. There’s a kid who can only move in slow motion, a kid who has every power in the world but can only use them randomly, and our main character Missy who has no powers at all. The thesis of the film seems to be that it doesn’t matter what kind of powers you have, its the way you use them, which is good for the warm and fuzzies.
Another big part of a Robert Rodriguez movie is adults being silly, and Pedro Pascal and Priyanka Chopra-Jonas really come in strong. Pedro Pascal is a superpowered dad (his well-earned niche) and Priyanka as a surprisingly unnerving villain. The child actors are a little over the top, but that is also to be expected. The money-making character, the six-year-old who plays the child of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is pretty much as tooth rotting-ly cute as you’d expect (“My teeth are strong because my dad's a shark!”) but even with that all the kids do a good job of holding their own. Taylor Dooly reprises her role as Lavagirl, and Sharkboy wears a mask and does not speak to hide the fact that Taylor Lautner, unfortunately, did not reprise his role.
There’s a lot of casual diversity in this film. The main character, Missy Moreno is a POC, as are a big chunk of her superpowered kid companions. There’s a kid who uses a wheelchair named Wheels who loudly proclaims “I know, it’s kind of on the nose, but I like it cause it’s cool!” I don’t know enough about disability theory to know how valuable that sort of representation is, the film gets some credit for the effort. There’s also a pretty strong through-line of strong women characters without it going over the top. The main character doesn’t have powers and that stays consistent, she doesn’t have some Deus Ex Machina where it turns out she actually has powers and saves the day. She is strong because of her leadership and determination. This is a trait that’s shown to be hereditary when her grandmother reveals that her mother was “the best superhero of them all” despite not having powers.
When alien invaders capture Earth's superheroes, their kids must learn to work together to save their parents - and the planet.