Film Review – Spare Parts
Spare Parts is a “based on a true story” film that grew out of Wired magazine article from 2005. It is all based on a robotics team at a high school that went on to surprise everyone at a national competition. The film revolves around four Hispanic high school students in Arizona. All are from different backgrounds, but use their strengths and band together to build an underwater robot for a national competition.
Fredi Cameron (George Lopez) is a substitute teacher with an engineering background who essentially gets suckered into being the robotics team coach or sponsor. Mind you, the team does not even exist until Oscar (Carlos PenaVega) approaches Fredi with the competition and the scholarship money at stake. Fredi takes pity on the boy, as he knows what he has recently lost. Eventually, three other boys join the team. Cristian (David Del Rio) is the brains, Hector (J.R. Villareal) is the muscle, and Lorenzo (José Julián) is the mechanical genius. All have different goals and problems in life, and the struggle to create a robot and get along at the same time is difficult. Combine this all with the fact that everyone is from a low-income family, has little of any money, and struggles with immigration problems. The high school itself has very little money and education problems.
The film is about the same tone as those PG family films that not many people without kids would venture to the theaters to see. Spare Parts is rated PG-13 as it deals with more serious issues than those rated PG, but has that same quality of acting and keeping you interested. It has a few laughs, but its main goal is to show how you can rise from bad circumstances to become something no one expected.
The acting is okay, about as good as a screenplay that tries to teach a lesson while keeping to the gist of true story. George Lopez shares the spotlight with Marisa Tomei, a potential love interest and general cheerleader for kids, and Jamie Lee Curtis, the principal of the school and another cheerleader, albeit a kooky one. The four young men (PenaVega, Del Rio, Villareal, and Julián) all play their characters well, with Del Rio being the most interesting of the four. One of my biggest issues with the film is the casting of Alexa PenaVega as the other PenaVega’s love interest. Other than both being married in real life, Alexa looked and felt too old to be playing a high school student, but you could argue with me that Carlos is only a year younger. He played and fit the younger role well. I want to say Alexa just looked older, but this is going into some feminism territory that this female would rather just stay away from.
The biggest complaint coming from the general, non-Hispanic audience can already be predicted. It focuses on the immigration issue and it does itself no favors that it is set in Arizona. This is the central issue in the film. It is not placed into the plot just to make it a politically-contentious film; it is actually part of the true story. The epilogue points out the differences in the film versus the true story, but also what happened since 2004. It is definitely a statement on our immigration policy and our toleration of illegal immigrants to a point. I personally had no problem with the immigration plot points in the film, but I can see some reviews and reactions being very negative just because of it.
Spare Parts is an okay film that strives to be remarkable. It has some memorable moments and the story itself is interesting and surprising. This is a film that could be targeted to high school students as an inspirational piece as well as an educational one based on its immigration message. It is just not a film that I would spend money to see.