(Photo courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes) “‘Chupa’ fails to replicate the story ‘E.T.’ told decades prior in a meaningful way.”
Uninspired writing, incorrect folklore and bad CGI make up Netflix’s original movie “Chupa.” Set vaguely in the 90s it follows young Alex, played by Evan Whitten, as he travels to Mexico to reconnect with his family heritage. Along the way he meets and befriends a young chupacabra nicknamed Chupa, a Mexican cryptid known for sucking the blood out of goats.
The movie follows a plot incredibly similar to “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” as a young boy befriends a seemingly dangerous creature that the government is hunting. Christian Slater plays Quinn the chupacabra hunter – and gives a dry performance as he harasses the family that is holding Chupa in their barn.
The movie relies heavily on its child actors who do not live up to expectations. The three main kids Alex, Luna and Memo do not come across as friends, let alone the family that they are. Luna and Memo are Alex’s cousins who help him harbor Chupa and aid in Chupa’s eventual release back to his family.
This film takes a creative route with the look of el chupacabra. Famously these creatures are known to look like skinny, leathery and hairless dog like animals. “Chupa” portrays them as lion-like creatures with large blue wings. Known for leaving their goat victims entirely drained of blood in folklore, chupacabras are fearsome terrors. The ones featured in this movie even have healing powers which close the wounds on their meals.
The creatures in this movie are almost able to be trained like dogs, even listening to commands given in Spanish. They are portrayed as pack animals, coming together to save their young cub from the hunters but they are unable to track Chupa the way he is later shown to track his family. The creatures are not consistent in their abilities, and the youngest appears to be one of their strongest.
Chupa is undeniably one of the main characters in the film, so it’s unfortunate that he’s horrible to look at. The CGI in the film looks incredibly over-rendered and out of place, especially when the creatures are interacting with humans. The creatures seem to have an aura of fuzz and blur around them, so when they get close to the humans it’s strikingly clear that they are fake. Modern CGI can be done incredibly well, and this film falls flat in the attempt.
There is a subplot that surrounds Alex bonding with his family and learning about his deceased father. It feels forced for the conversations around his father’s career as a luchador and his grandfather’s brain injury to take place. The emotional writing falls flat, as there is limited time for the audience to get to know and feel for the characters in the 95-minute run time. There also seem to be missteps in writing the relationship between cousins Alex and Luna who at times seem to be flirting with each other.
Overall “Chupa” is a mess and a retelling of a story seen in countless coming-of-age stories. The characters are bland and sometimes boring, and the movie lacks heart and humor. The story takes far too long to climax and wrap up, feeling 30 minutes too long. Netflix originals are hit or miss, and this movie is definitely a miss.