Chupa movie review & film summary (2023)
Movie Reviews

Chupa movie review & film summary (2023)

The boy who initially discovers the movie’s secret creature—sought after by forces of capitalism and science—is Alex (Evan Whitten), a loner kid who is bullied by his white classmates in Kansas City. Alex is sent down by his mother (his father died of cancer, a plot point) to Mexico to hang with his former luchador grandfather (Demián Bechir) and his two cousins Luna (Ashley Ciarra) and Memo (Nickolas Verdugo). But Alex would rather play with his Game Boy, and the language barrier discourages him. Little by little, in one lightly sweet scene after the next, Alex’s hosts get him to try Mexican food, experiment with fireworks, and even learn how to be a luchador, like his father once was.  

Enter Chupa, also on his lonesome, looking for somewhere to belong. He’s being hunted by a tenacious poacher played by Christian Slater, and it’s revealed to us through the movie’s typical expository dialogue that Chupa will have great economic value once captured. Chupa finds his way to the family’s ranch home, and finds a friend in Alex—in one bonding moment, Chupa even shares his food with Alex, a squished rat. Chupa’s presence accelerates Alex’s own emotional story, and the two outsiders learn to stand up for themselves, bolstered by the power of family. 

Part of the movie’s supposed charm is that it’s predictable, with Cuarón mistaking familiar with cute and warm. When it comes to a wash like this movie, maybe it helps to consider what it doesn’t have compared to other animal buddy adventures. There isn’t a sequence where Chupa helps him defeat some bullies, where Chupa skateboards, or a scene where Chupa dances in a McDonald’s. But this list nudges a different problem—this overly simplified story also doesn’t make much room for connectivity. There isn’t a whole lot of time for us to feel their bond or for us to see how Chupa is him, and he is Chupa, etc. “Chupa” can be cute on cue, but its emotional tissue is thin. 

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