Netflix and Austin auteur Robert Rodriguez seem like a streamer/filmmaker match that’s meant to be.
The “Sin City,” “Spy Kids” “Sharkboy/LavaGirl” director-producer, famed for knowing how to do things that look expensive cheaper than Hollywood can imagine should have been the first call Netflix made when it wanted to start making its own movies.
He’s got a Stan Lee-sized imagination, an eye for effects. And as his Netflix superhero comedy “We Can Be Heroes” reminds us, few can lay claim to being better at directing kids.
But taking all that into account, and acknowledging how he treats “underwear on the outside” superhero pics as the childish enterprises they rightly should be, doesn’t make this “Heroes” come off. “Nonsense” is both its strength, and its biggest shortcoming.
He’s conjured up a “Sharkboy” and “Lavagirl” Incredibles/Avengers universe, where Earth is protected by “Heroics” who operate out of a headquarters with a huge “H” on the roof.
Tentacled aliens, in fanciful tentacled spaceships come crashing in, defeat Miracle Guy (Boyd Holbrook), Tech-No (Christian Slater), Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley), Blinding Fast (Sung Kang) and the rest.
Even Marcus Moreno (Pedro Pascal), the ex-“heroic” and now exec director of the team is summoned back into service, and captured.
The president (Christopher MacDonald) is an oaf, possibly even a traitor.
Only the children of the super-heroic can save us, because in America, it’s not what you’ve learned and earned, but birth which determines destiny, right?
Moreno’s smart but powers-free daughter Missy (YaYa Gosselin, good) finds herself leading the children of Heroics, kids named Slo-Mo, Noodles (an Elastiboy knockoff), Wheels (a wheelchair warrior), Ojo (she draws future events she “sees”), Fast Forward, Rewind, Facemaker, Wild Card, A Capella (she sings and things happen) and little Guppy (who manipulates water).
Can these ten “work as a team” to defeat the foes their parents couldn’t hold off?
“It’s not about who’s fastest or strongest. It;s about working together!”
Too many scenes devolve into static shots of kids watching their parents captured on live TV (their fights covered “Smackdown” style) or parents watching their “helpless without me” kids fighting back.
Too much dialogue is just layers and layers of exposition, characters explaining their gifts, their situation or the status of the Heroics exec (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) out to catch them and put them back in isolation.
The fights are fine, well put-together. And scattered moments of humor pop up — Wild Card (Nathan Blair) catching himself every time he wants to swear, “Holy…doo doo!” — A Capella (Lotus Blossom, hippy parents are still around) singing the theme to “Chariots of Fire” to get Slo Mo (Dylan Henry Lau) to move a little faster, or summing up their chances with a verse from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” theme.
But “Heroes,” stealing its title from the Bowie tune, is mostly just a lot of effects and action thrown at a half-finished pitch, a script that needed a lot more work before cameras ever rolled in RR’s state-of-the-art digital studio.
Cast: Pedro Pascal, YaYa Gosselin, Boyd Holbrook, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Lyon Daniels, Christian Slater, Christopher MacDonald, Akira Akbar, Nathan Blair and Adriana Barraza
Credits: Scripted and directed by Robert Rodriguez. A Netflix release.