Review: Blue Beetle cast makes familiar plot work

Xolo Maridueña in Blue Beetle (Warner Bros.)

If you’re looking for the new revolution in super-hero films, the latest DC flick “Blue Beetle” won’t do it for you.

It’s basically a remake of “Iron Man” featuring a Latino cast and an alien origin for the technology that allows a recent college grad to become the latest super-powered hero in a universe that already boasts Superman and Batman.

That said the movie does have a great deal of charm thanks to an entertaining cast led by the charismatic Xolo Mariduena of “Cobra-Kai” and comedian George Lopez, as his eccentric but secretly brilliant uncle, who plays the man-behind-the-suit role popularized by the CW super-hero shows.

Blue Beetle is a legacy super-hero character who has been around since the early days of comic books. The first incarnation debuted with scads of other crusaders in the late 1930s after Superman’s instant sales success in 1938.

In the 1960s, a new version of the character that was basically an amalgam of Batman and Spider-Man was established by Steve Ditko after his and Stan Lee’s egos clashed over the direction of their creation Spider-Man necessitated a parting of the ways.

In the early 2000s, the lore was reimagined by the team of writers Keith Giffen, John Rogers and artist Cully Hamner, which is the character which we are introduced to in the film.

Mariduena plays Jaime Reyes, whose body is joined into a symbiotic relationship with the Blue Beetle scarab, an alien technology that allows a super-powered exoskeleton for form around its host, imbuing him with a bevy of powers and skills.

Reyes and his family teams with Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine) to fight off her aunt, Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), and armor-wearing Ignacio Carapax’ (Raoul Max Trujillo) who seek to obtaining the scarab to use for nefarious plans of outfitting an army with the scarab’s tech.

Xolo Maridueña in Blue Beetle (Warner Bros.)

The super-hero antics, while familiar, are executed well, but the most interesting and entertaining aspect of the film is Jaime’s relationship with his family. Damian Alcazar as Alberto, Jaime’s father, gives the film heart that truly lifts the film — at least for a moment — above mediocrity, and Belissa Escobedo as Milagro, Jaime’s sister, adds a comedic punch.

Lopez’s Rudy seems at first like a one-note stereotypical “whacky uncle,” but as the plot unfolds, we learn that there is more to him than what is first presented.

There is humor in the movie that falls flat, but overall the family dynamic and their antics is what works best in the movie that was originally intended to air on HBO Max before the decision was made to release it in theaters.

Director Angel Manuel Soto is to be credited for making the most out of the derivative script, written by Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer. The movie is paced well and when it focuses on the Reyes family, it works a little magic.

If you enjoy super-hero material, the movie isn’t terrible. It’s not remotely original, but it has some charm. Mariduena and Marquezine are attractive leads, who have TV-type charisma, and the action and comedy is solid enough if you don’t go in expecting a masterpiece.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 7 min.
Grade: C

New in Local Theaters – Aug. 18, 2023

  • Blue Beetle (PG-13) 2 hr. 7 min. (trailer)
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
  • Strays (R) 1 hr. 33 min. (trailer)
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)

Classic Corner – Double Indemnity

“Yeah, I killed him. I killed him for money, and I killed him for a woman.”

Isn’t that the way it always goes? The quote is the standout line uttered by Fred McMurray as Walter Neff in Billy Wilder’s classic “Double Indemnity.”

The 1944 film, based on James M. Cain’s sordid, melodramatic novella, set an early and high standard for the film noire with its cynical tone, witty banter, and sleazy subject matter. The film is a classic by any standard, with a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, creator of private eye Philip Marlow, and if given the chance, the movie holds up well today. Many of the film’s best attributes became conventions of the genre, and that must be kept in mind to avoid the temptation of calling it clichéd.

Neff is an insurance salesman smitten by the forbidden allure of Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson, whose wiles draws Neff into a plot to murder her husband to collect on a life insurance policy that contains — you guessed it — a double indemnity clause. The clause in question pays double if the insured is killed in a particular circumstance laid in the policy, such as riding on a train.

Edward G. Robinson plays claims adjuster Barton Keys, a friend of Neff’s who is excellent at ferreting out the truth amid a tangle of lies.

The plot is lean and simple, but the script is peppered with memorable dialogue. Wilder’s style of direction adds plenty of tension and intrigue as the conspirators begin to turn on each other. The three principle members of the cast crafted storied Hollywood careers, but one could argue they never worked in a better movie than this one.

The movie plays at 3 p.m. Sunday on Turner Classic Movies during a day dedicated to Stanwyck as part of the channel’s “Summer Under the Stars” promotion. Here’s the schedule