DC Actioner “Blue Beetle” is Best When It Brings Culture Center Stage

The cure for superhero fatigue? Cut tie-ins to extraneous characters and multiverses of quantum physics straining credulity, focus on an outsider of humble roots, tell an origin story we haven’t seen before and raise the stakes for a showdown involving characters we enjoy. Basically do what Ángel Manuel Soto’s does in Blue Beetle (B+)! Buoyed by Cobra Kai star Xolo Maridueña as the movie’s charismatic protagonist, Soto tells the story of a working class Mexican-American family in the fictional Palmera City facing a supernatural shock to the system that jettisons them into life as DC Universe warriors. The film is consistently engaging with escalating threats and joyful action abounding. The hero’s family customs and worldview are central to the film’s successful audience engagement, with George Lopez and Belissa Escobedo as comic relief highlights in his close-knit Latino family. Only Susan Sarandon misses the mark with an underdeveloped role as a ruthless baddie. The adventure overstays its welcome a bit, but novel and nostalgic flourishes keep the film fairly fresh. Bobby Krlic’s symphonic score sets a manic mood, and the special effects are competent enough to populate a believable world. Families will enjoy seeing a multigenerational group of likable characters rise to the occasion.

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