Parents' Guide to

Hero Mode

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 8+

Coding is cool in wry gamer comedy with glitchy production.

Movie PG 2021 88 minutes
Hero Mode Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say Not yet rated
Kids say (3 ):

This "kids can" comedy should entertain most tweens, although parents may find the amateur filmmaking trip-ups frustrating and annoying. The script may not be amazing, but it will likely make you laugh -- largely thanks to expert delivery by a supporting cast of comedic actors whose faces you'll probably recognize, even if you don't know their names (but in case you do: Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kimia Behpoornia, Erik Griffin, Jim O'Heir, Nelson Franklin, Bobby Lee). The film is full of things that many kids will spark and relate to, like the video game environment, an adult game designer (Sean Astin) who's still dealing with his dad berating him about games being a waste of time, and the feeling of wanting and trying to help but then screwing things up. The situation also offers up something that lots of kids crave: parental trust and respect. Troy's intelligent, capable mom is in a pinch with work stuff, and she trusts Troy to take the ball and run with it. And when he gets this massive opportunity, he throws all of his energy into it -- but quickly starts to realize that suddenly being put in charge doesn't mean you know how to be in charge. This combo of lessons is likely due to the fact that the film is a group effort by the Carpenter family: They all created the story, dad Jeff put it into screenplay form, mom Marcy produced, and son Chris stars.

Where Hero Mode falls apart is in production quality: It has poor sound quality and mixing, terrible editing, and below-average cinematography. That said, the weak production elements are somewhat offset by bold, creative visual effects. And while the leads don't shine in their roles, Sorvino's presence and Astin's warm up the entire journey. Viewers who are gamers will get an extra delight: The film has cameos by YouTubers who shape the gaming world, including MatPat and Scott the Woz. The filmmakers succeed in their quest to create a true family film, one that's appropriate and entertaining for tweens and up. While it's certainly not an ultimate high scorer, it's a cute comedy that's bountiful in rewards.

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