“Spare Parts” is a feel-good movie that is curiously awkward in places, but nonetheless manages to deliver the emotional impact of the underdogs riding to victory. And best of all, it’s a true story.
Craggy-faced George Lopez plays
Dr. Fredi Cameron, a real Ph.D. who somehow landed as a substitute teacher in
this obscure backwater high school in
Dr. Cameron finds himself in a
place where accomplishments and self-assurance are in short supply.
This is an obscure high school populated largely by Hispanic immigrant
kids, many of whom are residing in the
Yes, there’s a bit of a
political agenda going on here, as the viewer watches these four “illegal”
high school students form a robotics club with Dr. Cameron, and together enter a
competition, on a shoestring budget, putting Dr. Cameron at risk with the Law
for transporting the four illegals across State lines to enter the competition
Director Sean McNamara does a good job educating the viewer about the aspects of the competition itself, and how these boys were able to creatively substitute ordinary materials for expensive machine parts. But somehow the secondary casting is disappointingly amateurish, including venerable, proven actresses like Jamie Lee Curtis (as the high school’s principal) and Marissa Tomei (as one of the teachers). The film probably would have been improved with fewer shots of Lopez fist-pumping during the competition, and more in-depth coverage of the relationships between the boys themselves, which introduced some promising edginess, but wasn’t really well-developed.
Yes, it would have been a little hard to believe that some unknown high school kids spending $800 for supplies at Home Depot could have teamed up to construct an underwater robot capable of beating the thousands-of-dollars spent by the best and brightest team from M.I.T. But somehow, spare parts and perseverance and teamwork prevail, and how can we not cheer for these determined homespun heroes?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,