FILM REVIEW — Family Saves the day in “Blue Beetle”

Published 12:02 am Friday, August 18, 2023

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“Blue Beetle”

Warner Brothers Films

Directed by Ángel Manuel Soto

Starring Xolo Maridueña, Susan Sarandon, Bruna Marquezine, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Adriana Barraza, Raoul Max Trujillo, and George Lopez

Rated PG-13

2 ½ Stars

I won’t pretend to be familiar with the Blue Beetle comic books. They were first printed way back in 1939, but I’d never heard of them before it was announced that DC Studios was developing a movie based on the “fan-favorite” series.

It turns out “Blue Beetle” is a fairly standard comic book movie where a nice kid (Xolo Maridueña) accidently comes in contact with a piece of extraterrestrial biotechnology that that immediately links with his nervous system, turning him into an unwitting superhero.

The rest of the movie follows his adventure as he tries to figure out how to control his new superpowers, and then defend himself against the evil corporate CEO (Susan Sarandon) and her augmented henchman (Raoul Max Trujillo) who want to use the tech to build an army of super soldiers.

There’s nothing here we haven’t seen in previous comic book movies, so “Blue Beetle” relies instead on a charming central performance to convince the audience to go along for the ride.

Fortunately, Maridueña plays such a nice kid that it’s easy to cheer for him to succeed. He’s smart, unwilling to use his newfound powers for evil and most importantly, is surrounded by a large and loving family.

That family turns out to be my favorite part of the movie, and it is the aspect that gives the film its unique point of view. Theirs is a family of Hispanic immigrants, struggling to survive in modern America, but determined to stick together no matter what might happen.

From the loving parents (Elpidia Carrillo and Damían Alcázar) to the conspiracy-crazy uncle (George Lopez) to the abuela with intriguing secrets buried in her past (Adriana Barraza), this is a lively group that keeps the movie going thanks to their infectious enthusiasm.

I can’t say the same for Sarandon, the biggest name in this cast. She struts across the screen, trying to give us evil villain realness, but it all seems a little performative. It’s a cardboard performance, and a surprising disappointment given her reputation and talent.

I was also less than impressed with the movie’s special effects and fight sequences.

These are TV level effects that look shoddy when seen up on the big screen. It might be a bit unfair, but after umpteen comic book movies, we’ve come to expect better from summer superhero blockbusters.

The same holds true for the fight sequences, which are flashy and loud, but also completely forgettable.

Which means that your enjoyment of “Blue Beetle” hinges on the appealing cast and their migrant story struggles. I found these performances, along with the film’s many comic moments, to make the movie into a mild success. It still has that recycled plot that’s a mix of “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man” and “RoboCop,” as well as painfully mediocre special effects, but sometimes a loving family is enough to make everything turn out okay.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at