What is Chupa about? New Netflix movie explained

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Chupa, a family adventure movie by Jonás Cuarón and starring Christian Slater, has arrived and is already in Netflix’s top 10 chart – here’s what it’s about, who’s in the cast, and if it’s worth watching, as well as an explainer on what a chupacabra is and if it’s a real animal. 

Let’s address the mythical elephant in the room – before its release, when news of the Netflix flick started doing the rounds, social media users were quick to point out that it has a rather rude translation. You see, “chupa” or “chupar” translates as “suck” or “to suck” in Spanish, and can be used as a slang term for a notably rude act.

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Though Netflix should probably have thought that one through, this isn’t the only meaning of the word – and the trailer even makes light of the situation. When lead character Alex suggests the name Chupa to his Spanish-speaking relatives, his cousin Luna says: “You know “Chupa” means “sucker,” right?”

Chuckle-inducing name aside, there’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to the family film – here’s everything you need to know. 

What is Chupa about?

Directed by Jonás Cuarón, Netflix’s Chupa is of the same ilk as the family classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, as our lead character Alex embarks on a risky adventure to save a young chupacabra cub from being hunted down and exploited for its mystical powers. 

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Check out the trailer below:

The official synopsis reads: “Shy 13-year-old Alex flies from Kansas City to Mexico to meet his extended family for the first time. There he meets his grandfather and former Lucha libre champion Chava, energetic, wrestling-obsessed cousin Memo, and fearless, hip cousin Luna. 

“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 is hunting the misunderstood creature to try and harness his powers.”

In a bid to protect his new furry, flying friend, Alex and his family set off on the “adventure of a lifetime,” where he’s reminded that “life’s burdens are lighter when you don’t have to carry them alone.”

Though the movie is ultimately a fantasy, the underlying theme is an important part of the family film formula. As said by Cuarón, the “core message of” Chupa is “the importance of family, particularly in a character who was looking for his roots.”

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What is a chupacabra?

In Chupa, a chupacabra is a magical, furry creature that looks like a cross between a Gremlin and a hyena, but with feathered wings. The definition of the creature depends on where you are in the world.

In Puerto Rican and Latin American folklore, for example, chupacabras are described as alien-like creatures the size of a small bear with a row of spines along their backs. In the southwest United States, they’re said to look more like dogs.

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The Netflix version of a chupacabra is a lot cuter

As we’ve already touched upon, the name is a combination of the word “chupar,” which means “to suck” or “sucker,” and “cabra,” meaning “goat.” The reason for the name is due to chupacabras’ alleged vampiric qualities, with the legend being that these monstrous creatures suck the blood of goats, sheep, and other livestock. 

Now, you may be wondering why the chupacabra depicted in the trailer looks so different. Thankfully, Cuarón was on hand to explain: “I wanted the creature to feel grounded and still tied to its mythology. I also wanted it to feel vulnerable and be something a kid like Alex could connect with. I drew inspiration from several animals – like koalas, bears, and dogs.”

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He added: “When designing the adult chupacabras we wanted to show how this creature could transform into something more ferocious that could be more tied into the myth. Chupa might be cute and adorable like a cub, but I wanted to show the potential that the creature could have to be threatening and powerful.”

Are chupacabras real?

No, chupacabras aren’t real, but much like other legendary creatures such as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, there have been numerous sightings over the years, leading some to believe they exist.

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Reports of sightings date back to 1995, something the filmmaker elaborated on. “The myth of the chupacabra started in the ‘90s in Puerto Rico after a couple of goats were found dead with wounds on their stomachs,” he said. “The myth quickly spread all through Latin America and southern parts of the U.S., and it even reached other continents. There were sightings all over.”

Cuarón went on to say he was around “10 or 11” when the rumors started circulating in the news in Mexico, including in the town where he grew up. “I was secretly excited to run into one of them,” he added. 

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Chupa cast: Who’s in it?

Netflix’s Chupa cast includes:

  • Evan Whitten as Alex
  • Ashley Ciarra as Luna
  • Nickolas Verdugo as Memo
  • Demián Bichir as Chava
  • Christian Slater as Richard Quinn
  • Julio Cesar Cedillo as Dr. Juan Carlos Ortega

Evan Whitten is a rising star, although he’s had an interest in the entertainment world from a very young age, having scripted comics and short stories since he was just four years old. His on-screen family, including Ashley Ciarra and Nickolas Verdugo Gallegos, are into dancing and music respectively. 

As for the adult cast, Demián Bichir is an Oscar-nominated actor, having starred in a wide variety of movies including The Nun, A Better Life, and The Hateful Eight. Meanwhile, Christian Slater is best known for his ‘80s and ‘90s hits including Heathers and True Romance. 

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Is Chupa worth watching?

The Rotten Tomatoes score for Chupa is mixed, with the Netflix movie earning 58% on the Tomatometer and a 62% Audience Score.

The reviews are much the same, with The New York Times writing: “Though the concept is promising, and some moments are tender, one wishes the film had delved deeper into the chupacabra myth and the characters’ stories to make for a more satisfying watch.”

Elsewhere, FilmWeek described Chupa as “a sweet but very minor movie,” while RogerEbert said: “Chupa willfully becomes one of those family films that takes plenty from the toy box of cliches left before and hardly gives anything back.”

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Still, it’s a fun family watch, and one that’s jumped into Netflix’s top 10 movies chart. If you need a bit of lighthearted viewing that pays homage to the adventure movies of your childhood, Chupa could very well be for you.

Chupa is available to stream on Netflix now. Check out some of our upcoming movie and TV hubs below:

House of the Dragon Season 2 | Barry Season 4 | Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 | Fast X | Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse | The Flash | Indiana Jones 5 | Oppenheimer | Barbie | Blue Beetle | Extraction 2 | Sweet Tooth Season 2 | The Night Agent Season 2

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