What can I say about Spare Parts besides stating that I am not the intended audience? This is a movie meant for families, young children, and older folk whose strongest opinion towards anything is, “hmm, that’s nice.” I feel like this is the kind of movie my grandmother would have rented while saddled with the unfortunate task of having to babysit an 8 year-old me, and honestly, I would have loved it.
Spare Parts is based on a Wired article showcasing how a high school from a not very affluent area managed to compete in a nationally recognized robotics competition. Every year, more financially privileged schools and universities showcase their robotics programs by completing an underwater obstacle course using their mechanical creations. Of course they are all annually bested by those geniuses at MIT. The odds are stacked against our group of nerdy heroes, but luckily they have George Lopez as their coach. I mean, it’s not literally George Lopez, but since I don’t remember his character’s name (and his character is actually a combination of two real-life people), I’m just going to call him George Lopez.
I get the feeling that this is a bit of a passion project for Mr. Lopez, who is always working to be a positive representative in the Hispanic community, who are heavily represented in Spare Parts. In fact, the four main characters are based on real kids who, at the time of the events, were undocumented Mexican immigrants. As a natural born citizen, I’ve never been exposed to a culture (the movie takes place in Arizona) where deportation is a constant threat, and despite being a light-hearted affair, Spare Parts uses that concept for dramatic effect. There is even a subplot involving a straight and narrow kid who must always take the blame for his brother’s misdeeds simply because his brother has citizenship, which is an untouchable asset to a family that’s already been split by immigration issues.
It is in these moments of what I presume to be cultural honesty that Spare Parts really took footing with me. Even though I can’t really call it an objectively good movie (it has a lot of clunky ADR, and the script is after-school special worthy), I am duly impressed that it was able to introduce me to a culture of which I am largely unfamiliar. This movie, as hokey as it is, makes it plainly clear what so many Americans forget: everybody was an immigrant at one point, and given a chance, anybody can benefit from the land of opportunity.
The supporting cast features Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Steven Michael Quezada, the guy who played Gomez in Breaking Bad, all of whom seem to be having a good time. Collecting a paycheck, sure, but what’s so wrong with that? I worked at a Chili’s for 6 years, so I will not judge.
But enough about my experience. As I said, I am not the intended audience for this flick, but the theater around me (filled to the brim with families and older folk) absolutely LOVED this movie, and that counts for something. Heck, I’d say that counts for everything. Kids were laughing at the innocent slapstick, moms and dads were laughing at the (admittedly strange) sexual innuendo, and by the time the robotics competition was underway, people were actually cheering. You know what? Cool! We should all be so lucky to be so moved by a film.
This is one of those movies that almost defies review. You know if you’re going to see it or not without reading a word of what I have to say. Frankly, I’d have probably never heard of it had I not been dispatched to review it, but I don’t feel comfortable giving it a negative review. If you’re the type of person who enjoys this sort of thing (or if you’re stuck babysitting a youngling) you won’t do wrong by seeing Spare Parts. It’s a positive story, filled to the brim with love, fun, and cultural pride. It has a surprising amount to say for being a family film, and it is absolutely harmless to even the most cynical (see: me) person’s sensibilities. Did I mention that I have a soft spot for George Lopez? He just seems so nice, and I love how charitable he is towards his culture and how much pride he takes in being a Hispanic American. That’s very cool and deserving of my respect. Also, I found him to be very funny in Balls of Fury.
Spare Parts opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Dan Scully
Dan Scully is a film buff and humorist living in a tiny apartment in Philadelphia. He hosts the podcast I Like to Movie Movie and is the proud father to twin cactuses named Riggs & Murtaugh. Also, he doesn’t really mind when Batman kills people. Follow him on Twitter and Letterboxd.