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Jonas Cuarón's Chupa is cute and cuddly but fails to go any deeper

The latest addition to Netflix is Jonas Cuarón's adventure film based on the Latin American legend of the Chupacabra. Read all about it in Danielle Danaher's review.

By Danielle Danaher, Second Year, French and Spanish

The chupacabra, a kind of winged hyena which supposedly feeds on the blood of goats according to Latin American popular legend, is being relentlessly hunted by money-hungry government officials who want to use its blood for science. But Chupa is far from a threatening creature, and the CGI is successful in its delivery of a cuddly and adorable animal companion in the latest Netflix film, Chupa (2023), directed by Jonas Cuarón.

The film follows the adventures of Alex, his cousins Memo (Nickolas Verdugo) and Luna (Ashley Ciarra), and his grandfather Chava (Demián Bichir), a former lucha libre champion, as they do everything in their power to protect Chupa.

Demián Bichir, Nickolas Verdugo, Ashley Ciarra, and Evan Whitten in Chupa (2023) // Courtesy of Netflix on IMDB

When Alex (Evan Whitten), a young boy having difficulty fitting in as the only Mexican boy at his school, visits his grandfather and cousins on their ranch back in Mexico, he stumbles upon the mythical creature of the chupacabra and forms an unlikely bond.

Alex doesn’t speak enough Spanish to truly understand his cousin Memo and the somewhat wooden performance of the child actors makes us feel that, at the end of his stay on the ranch, Alex doesn’t really know his family at all.

However, the companionship between Chupa and Alex does offer the audience some heartwarming moments. Alex is struggling with processing the loss of his father and the loneliness that comes with the feeling that you don’t truly belong anywhere.

Courtesy of Netflix on IMDB

When he meets Chupa, a creature who is also split from his family and looking for somewhere to belong, he learns to have compassion and stick up for himself, telling Chupa, “You don’t have to be alone anymore.”

As the kids explore San Javier, shot through an aesthetically pleasing lens, Alex learns to embrace his culture and the Spanish language, which he previously rejected as it rendered him an outcast at his school in Kansas City.

Set in the 1990s, Chupa (2023) has all the tropes of a classic family adventure film, very much like E.T. (1982), and yet lacks some of the same charm, charisma and heart. The writing is very rarely amusing, and the characters aren’t given enough time to deepen their connections with each other and properly bond.

Courtesy of Netflix on IMDB

Directed by Jonas Cuarón – son of Alfonso Cuarón, four-time Oscar winner and creator of films such as Roma (2018) – the film goes to show that nepotism can only go so far and talent for film-making is non-transferable through family ties.

While the structure and set-up of the film have the power to go far, as we’ve seen before, Cuarón stays too firmly within the framework of the adventure movie genre, and the storyline ends up being rather pedestrian and predictable.

Featured Image: Courtesy of Tony Rivetti Jr./Netflix on IMDB

Will you be watching this film?