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New Release Review - SPARE PARTS

Four underprivileged teens attempt to win a robotics competition.

Review by Andy Comer

Directed by: Sean McNamara

Starring: Alexa PenaVega, Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis, George Lopez, Esai Morales


Spare Parts is the true story of a rag tag team of underprivileged Hispanic high schoolers coming together under the guidance of a reluctant leader to achieve greatness that no one, even themselves, truly believed they were capable of. It all starts with Oscar, a driven young man who is looking for something to get him out into the world when he comes across an underwater robotics competition. After Dr. Cameron, the new substitute, tells him to get a few more students, the group slowly grows as it adds; Christian, The Brain, Lorenzo, the mechanic, and Luis, the muscle. Together, these high school students use 800 dollars to build a robot and compete against the best tech colleges in the country.
The actors playing the main four boys are all unknowns, but the supporting cast assembled around them is unbelievable to the point that it is almost distracting. Tomei as Gwen, an idealistic teacher, is fine because she has great presence and authority, but when matched up with Dr. Cameron, things just feel off and overly forced. Ironically, the biggest distraction in the casting is also the source of the biggest laughs, Jamie Lee Curtis as the eccentric Principal. She does a great job with what the script gives her to do, and honestly to run a high school like that, you would probably need a few screws loose, but each scene she appears in has such a tonal shift from the rest of the film that it becomes more distracting than anything.
Ultimately, the only relationships that should matter here are the ones between the boys working together and with Dr. Cameron, and those all work just fine. There are some really touching moments when Dr. Cameron does his best to connect and help these young boys, but the problem is each of these situations feels completely unnatural. This is mostly due to pacing and tone, but the issue is glaringly apparent.
While the scenes I’m referring to do feel forced and unnatural, I cannot help but feel for the filmmakers for at least giving them a shot as they are essential to the story being told. The film is about far more than overcoming intellectual boundaries to find your place in the world, it is also mostly about these Hispanic kids, who are illegally in the country trying to find their place and in their own way prove that they belong. Sadly, with all the distractions, the film misses the mark in what should have been a home run with such an inspiring true story.





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