Chupa review: Adventure flick has its heart in the right place

Chupa is a fantasy adventure film set in Mexico focusing on a 13-year-old Alex visiting his extended family for the first time. He finds a chupacabra cub living in his grandfather’s shed and joins his cousins in helping the creature find its family. It is now streaming on Netflix.


Chupa is set in 1996 and begins in San Javier, Mexico. Scientist Richard Quinn and his crew frantically search a cavern for a mythological creature called the chupacabra and finally corner a young cub.

It is small like a puppy but has sharp teeth, retractable claws, and wings. Before it is captured, the tot is saved by a fully grown and lethal chupacabra. Injured in the process, the adult leads its hunters away from the cub, who ends up in a shed at a ranch.

Switch to Kansas City, where we are introduced to Alex, a 13-year-old boy who struggles to fit in and constantly deals with bullying. He recently lost his father to cancer and reluctantly prepares for a holiday trip to San Javier.

Once there, Alex meets his grandfather, Chava, and cousins Memo and Luna. As he gets used to life in a new country, Alex discovers that the chupacabra cub lives in Chava’s shed.

He names it Chupa and prepares to help find its family before Quinn can get his hands on him.


Evan Whitten plays Alex and does a good job as the innocent yet grieving protagonist. Seeing the world through his eyes makes the story humble and relatable.

His performance does justice to Alex’s journey as the kid’s relationship with Chupa allows him to process his father’s passing. It is also brilliant to see a child act so convincingly next to a CGI creature.

Demián Bichir as Chava is the anchor that holds the plot together. His energetic and nuanced performance as the forgetful grandpa makes for some of the best moments in the film.

Ashley Ciarra as Luna and Nickolas Verdugo as Memo are perfect partners to Alex. Memo’s inability to speak English is a great way to keep a lot of dialogue in Mexican. Also, Luna’s dynamic with Alex as the elder sister is quite wholesome.

Christian Slater as Quinn is probably the most forgetful. His fedora-wielding bad-guy character is a blatant rehashing of every movie villain ever.


Chupa is quite innocent in its approach and is clearly targeted at a younger audience. The plot is simple yet touches upon family, loss, grief, heritage, and the processing of emotions in a non-preachy way.

Witnessing all these things through a child’s eyes helps in making it all feel natural. Furthermore, the dialogues are well written.

There are some amazing yet short-lived character moments in the film that make it more than just an action-heavy adventure flick.

The Chupacabra is one of the best things about the film. Director Jonás Cuarón takes a different approach toward the creature compared to its fearful and deadly mythos.

He is designed as a fluffy mix between a domestic cat, a dog, and a wild feline that has wings like a Pegasus. Furthermore, he is animated with such precision that you have to remind yourself he isn’t really there.

The emotions on his face are almost human, which helps him give off a lovable Disney character vibe. The visual effects overall are top-tier, and the artists must be applauded for their effort.


Despite its tender moments and a lovable creature at the helm, Chupa isn’t a perfect film. The narrative structure is a bit wonky and events unfold at a very inconsistent pace.

With a short 98-minute runtime, the film allows tender character moments but has to rush through the other scenes. This hinders the impact of both the emotional and fast-paced stuff.

Alex doesn’t meet Chupa till the 40th minute, which is quite late if you consider the 98 minutes of content (less than 90 if you remove the credits). The film could have been so much more heartfelt if it was a bit longer.

This also would have allowed it to delve more into the chupacabra mythos which is severely lacking in the film. The creatures exist in this world but we get nothing about their history or origin except a few rehashed news stories.

Lastly, the antagonist is extremely weak. Capturing rare animals to make money from their abilities and barely doing anything about it feels like a dated concept.


Chupa is a fun and mildly emotional family film that is definitely worth a watch. Despite its flaws, the movie features good acting, a well-animated and cute CGI creature, and showcases an emotional side to children that is often not spoken about.

Furthermore, the kids are sure to ask for Chupa plushies after this film. Hopefully, Netflix acts on it.

Chupa review: Adventure flick has its heart in the right place 1

Director: Jonás Cuarón

Date Created: 2023-04-07 00:49

Editor's Rating:

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