Should You Watch ‘Chupa’? Review of Netflix’s New Family Movie

Our PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP? review of Netflix's new family movie.

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chupa netflix movie review

Picture: Netflix

The latest Netflix family adventure film, Chupa, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?

Inspired by the Amblin films of the 80s & 90s, Chupa is the story of a shy 13-year-old Alex (Evan Whitten) who flies from Kansas City to Mexico to meet his deceased father’s family for the first time.

There he meets his grandfather and former lucha libre champion Chava (Demián Bichir), energetic, wrestling-obsessed cousin Memo (Nickolas Verdugo), and fearless, hip cousin Luna (Ashley Ciarra). But just as Alex begins to get his bearings, he discovers a mythical creature living under his grandfather’s shed: a young chupacabra cub, which he recognizes from stories of the feared, full-grown chupacabra, fabled to feed on farmers’ livestock.

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Alex soon learns that his new friend Chupa has a secret history with his family, and that dogged, dangerous scientist Richard Quinn (Christian Slater) is hunting the misunderstood creature to try and harness his powers. To protect Chupa from impending danger, Alex sets off on the adventure of a lifetime.

During quarantine time during the Covid-19 pandemic, director Jonas Cuaron, son of Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity, Roma), spent a lot of time watching the family adventure films of his youth with his children: E.T., The Goonies, Gremlins, Jurassic Park, and the like.

In an interview with “Manny The Movie Guy” on YouTube, Cuaron discussed how that experience inspired him to do Chupa:

“I suddenly became very excited about the idea of doing a family movie that I could share with them (his 2 children) … and when this script came to me and it was a movie about a chupacabra but told as a family adventure, I became very excited because I grew up in Mexico in the 90s and, as a kid, the myth of the chupacabra was all over the news and there were sightings near where I was living so I was very excited about this creature. So the idea of being able to make an Amblin-esque type of movie for my kids but show the context of what I grew up in became very exciting for me.”

Most certainly, Chupa does include many of the ingredients of the Amblin films I grew up on. Missing parent from death or divorce. Feeling for a child to become whole after reeling from that missing parent. A mystical creature that brings the lonely, isolated child back to life and unites the family left behind. Government/authority figures that want to take said creature away for their own gain or out of fear of the unknown. It’s all there… on paper.

But the secret ingredients that you just can’t put in the script is what is largely missing from this movie: emotional bonds, great child acting performances, dealing with real-life factors of loss, and, of course, the flawless design of a creature that can make us instantly want to be around it and protect it at all costs.

christian slater chupa family adventure movie coming to netfix in april 2023

Picture: Netflix

The connection between Alex and Chupa feels flat and uninspired. Between the false ring of a CGI creature rather than straight animatronics or a blend of both and a pedestrian child actor performance, the scenes featuring the two of them together don’t garner enough genuine heartfelt feelings that will carry you into the adventurous rescue attempts or saying goodbye.

One could argue that the film is at its best without Chupa. Moments where the cousins grow closer through experiences in the car or on the streets of San Javier or moments when abuelo talks about his son to Alex seem to work best because they are more relatable & authentic and the child actors seem to respond best in those situations.

The quirky details in Chupa also serve to bring a little life out of a mostly plodding story. The use of the Lucha Libre family history brings out some entertaining scenes with former luchador legend abuelo Chava in full outfit or cousin Memo jumping off furniture to randomly attack Alex. Maybe they should have taught Chupa a few wrestling moves to take on Christian Slater and his crew.

jonas cuaron chupa family adventure movie coming to netfix in april 2023

Picture: Netflix

The 90s of it all also works its charms at times. A Gameboy, a cassette player, a ninja turtle t-shirt, and a bonding over the Beastie Boys drum up some nostalgic feelings to give the backdrop some added interest.

Overall, Chupa feels like a straight-to-VHS rental attempt at recapturing the prominence of the classic Amblin films of the 90s time period in which the film takes place. Families and young children, especially those from Spanish language households with immigrant stories of their own, might latch on to this film more than someone from my background, but I also think it doesn’t bring enough quality performances and emotional punch to even satisfy the discerning people of their intended audience.

Watch Chupa on Netflix If You Like

  • The Adam Project
  • We Are Heroes
  • Gremlins
  • E.T.
  • Harry and the Hendersons
  • Batteries Not Included

MVP of Netflix’s Chupa

Demian Bichir as Abuelo Chava.

While it may be debatable to enjoy the exploitation of a traumatic brain injury, Demian Bichir makes the most of role as abuelo Chava by being an emotional bridge for Alex to his father’s past and comic relief as a freewheeling luchador set loose on those who get in the way of his family or wish Chupa harm. I’ve always liked Bichir ever since I first saw him as the charming yet duplicitous Esteban Reyes on Showtime’s Weeds.



Inspired by 80s and 90s Amblin, but can’t reach the emotional highs or generational characters those movies created.

Should You Watch ‘Chupa’? Review of Netflix’s New Family Movie

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ANDREW MORGAN is a film critic & podcaster with 20 years of experience on the sets & offices of film & television. Current podcast host of the entertainment review show, Recent Activity. He lives in the Northeast of the United States with his wife and two children.