Friday, April 7, 2023

Chupa (2023)

Streaming Service: Netflix
Movie Name/Year: Chupa (2023)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Length: 1h 35min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: 25th Street Pictures, Netflix
Director: Jonás Cuarón
Writer: Joe Barnathan, Brendan Bellomo, Sean Kennedy Moore, Marcus Rinehart
Actors: Christian Slater, Demián Bichir, Evan Whitten, Ashley Ciarra, Nickolas Verdugo, Adriana Paz
Blurb from IMDb: While visiting family in Mexico, teenage Alex gains an unlikely companion when he discovers a young chupacabra hiding in his grandpa's shed. To save the mythical creature, Alex and his cousins must embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Selina’s Point of View:
I did not enjoy Chupa all that much. It was exactly what I thought it would be, but without any originality and minimal effort from the script writers.
The first thing I want to note is that someone clearly wanted to reference Jurassic Park throughout the script. That’s not a big deal, happens all time (because Jurassic Park is amazing), and it’s usually fun. Unfortunately, Chupa didn’t just reference Jurassic Park, they took swatches of script from it. Although the tone of the scenes were different, the problem is that it puts Chupa into direct comparison with the better film. That did not help.
I found a lot of the script to be lazy. On top of that, there are aspects of the film that are completely unfinished.

For instance, there’s a plot threaded throughout Chupa that involves the grandfather losing his memory. A big deal is made of how people can never know because she’d send him away. I think the movie would have been better if it gave that some kind of conclusion to that. Instead, the memory loss is played up for laughs and we never actually meet the mom.
The ending is very sudden, too. It’s not based off a book, but if it was I’d have assumed they cut half of it out.
Demián Bichir (Godzilla vs. Kong, Land, Chaos Walking), who played the grandfather, did do a great job. So did the kid actors: Evan Whitten (Next, Mr. Robot, The Resident), Ashley Ciarra (A Million Miles Away), and Nickolas Verdugo (The Prank Panel, Breakwater). Whitten, especially, did well at portraying the grief of a child. Whereas this was not Christian Slater’s (Inside Job, Archer, We Can Be Heroes) best performance at all.
I wanted Chupa to be better. Unfortunately, I just wouldn’t recommend it.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been looking forward to watching Chupa since we saw the trailer during our monthly stream. The little chupacabra creature looked absolutely adorable - and, honestly, pretty darn good as far as CGI critters are concerned. I was expecting a heartwarming kid-friendly movie about family and empathy, and I got so much more.
Chupa also takes a broad look at loss as well as the hard realities of caring for loved ones with degenerative brain disorders or traumatic brain injury issues. I was surprised by some of these deeper themes, but vehicles such as Chupa’s story are good ways to broach such hard issues with kids. While it is something that colors the plot of Chupa, it’s not what the overall movie dwells on. I was thankful for that, as I’ve had an exhausting week and was hoping for lighter fare with this viewing.
What I was surprised the most to see in Chupa was the level of late 80s and early 90s nostalgia steeped into the setting. I was fairly giddy seeing the stuffed Gizmo doll as well as the Jurassic Park (1993) poster on a bedroom wall. I won’t give all the throwback details away, but they all added up to place the timeline for this film before the turn of the century. I thought that was an interesting story decision, but smart if not wanting to deal with today’s level of technology when spinning a tale of an elusive cryptid. I’m glad the production team made that choice rather than the lame ‘oh I can’t get signal here’ type tropes that many films fall prey to.

I feel like I need to come back around to the effects used to bring the chupacabras to life on the screen. Whenever you hear about this particular creature of lore, they sound horrifying and scary. I think Chupa might get a bit of flack for making the creatures look so fluffy and cute - but I don’t care. The production team made a great choice using a trained dog actor on set for the human actors to work with and then augmented that performance with CGI. It helped those interactions feel more organic and real.
The acting was decent - even when some of the story premise was a little silly. I appreciated the family heritage explored in the movie as well as the young main character’s journey to embracing his ethnic identity.
Overall, Chupa was endearing, and my teenage daughter and I both enjoyed the experience. I wouldn’t mind recommending this movie for a great family movie night pick.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 44%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score –5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating 4/5
Movie Trailer:

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