Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: 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.
Review: I know this one is a little slow on the draw but even a self-proclaimed “movie-junkie” like myself can get a bit burned out on all the black mirror has to offer. That said, Chupa, turned out to be one of those classic kid’s tales that reminded me of why I fell in love with movies in the first place.
Taking a page from iconic films such as Gremlins and E.T. this simplistic but sweet story follows a boy named Alex (Evan Whitten) who’s having a hard time since his dad passed away and is also dealing with some not-so-subtle racist bullying at school. Alex’s mom sends him to spend his summer vacation in Mexico with his cousins Luna (Ashley Ciarra) and Memo (Nickolas Verdugo) as well as his granddad (or abuelo for you Duolingo fans out there) Chava. Alex is finding it hard fitting into this world and the same can be said for a furry/feathered creature that’s hiding out in their barn.
Separated from his family by a fame greedy hunter named Richard Quinn (Christian Slater) who also wants to sell him to a pharmaceutical company to study, Alex dubs the cute cryptid Chupa (try saying that six times in a row). And with the help of his family vows to reunite what turns out to be a baby chupacabra with its own family.
I’m sure everyone reading this already knows what a chupacabra is but for the uninitiated, these legendary creatures originate from Latin American folklore and are sometimes blamed for attacks on livestock, especially goats as it’s believed they live off the blood of the animal. That said, this is where the similarities end as this movie smartly chooses to change the more horrific design most people would be familiar with (that of a leathery looking dog meets bat) and instead chooses to add fur, feathers, and Pegasus-like wings making them appear more magical than horrifying. While obviously CGI the special effects here are decent with scenes of Alex and his family interacting with Chupa and even touching him looking pretty good.
Like Gizmo in Gremlins Chupa doesn’t speak and instead communicates in howls, cute whimpers and the occasional growls, and young Evan Whitten does a commendable job of delivering solid emotional scenes in these moments. Demián Bichir, who plays Chava, effortlessly delivers as the charming, loving grandfather of three, who was once a great luchador and misses his glory days as Mexico’s most beloved wrestler. Christian Slater, however, doesn’t have much else to do but to pop in and out of scenes as the “baddie” who wants to take Chupa away. I wish Slater would’ve had a bit more fun with the role; he could’ve chewed the scenery a bit and delivered a fun villainous turn but instead it’s almost like they were trying to balance him between being a self-serving fame monger and a man who just wants to prove chupacabras really exist. Most times I want to see a villain with depth; this wasn’t one of those times.
While Chupa may not have the staying power of the classics that its clearly inspired by, it’s still a solid family film with subtle messages about the importance of embracing where you come from and never letting anyone make you feel ashamed of yourself. It even touches on the importance of facing grief instead of avoiding it, while also delivering possibly the cutest little bloodsucker the world has ever seen.
So, if you’re worried movies like Gremlins might be too much for your little ones to handle, show them Chupa instead. Just brace yourself for the inevitable conversation about where and when they’re going to get their very own chupacabra.
Sommer’s Score: 6 out of 10
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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