Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Movie Review: "Spare Parts" (2015)

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Movie"Spare Parts"
Director: Sean McNamara
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Fredi Cameron is an out of work engineer who takes a job as a substitute teacher at a high school in Arizona. Oscar Vasquez is a student who only ever wanted to be in the military but couldn't because he is undocumented. After being denied enlistment, Oscar learns of a national robotics competition and wants to enter. He convinces Mr. Cameron, who reluctantly runs the robotics club, to let them try and enter the competition, provided Oscar can find a few other students to join. Oscar finds a computer geek named Cristian to help design, Mr. Cameron convinces the mechanically inclined Lorenzo to join, and to help with the heavy lifting Cristian convinces football player Luis to come aboard. Together with little experience and almost no money these kids must design and construct a robot to put in competition against the best technical universities in the country like MIT, Columbia, and Virginia Tech.

For a movie that received little to no promotion in our area, we were surprised to see "Spare Parts" pop up in one of our local theaters last week. With nothing else to see, we decided to take a chance on it. Though often cliche and rather formulaic, this movie manages to hit the right notes when necessary to drive an emotional response from the audience. It does help that this is based on a true-life underdog story that is incredibly inspirational and fun all on its own. Unlike a movie from last year called "When the Game Stands Tall," which is also meant to be an inspirational film based on a true story that didn't captivate us in the slightest, the group of kids in "Spare Parts" are neither rich, private school educated, or legal citizens of this country. Already, the odds are stacked against them and they have very few people in their corner to help them achieve their goals. Oscar's military dreams are quickly dashed when it turns out he needs a birth certificate to enlist. So, when he shifts his thinking and gets the idea to enter a national robotics competition with a budget of only about $800, it seems like an impossible task. Armed with just their brains and a little bit of faith from an unlikely mentor in transient teacher Fredi Cameron, played well by George Lopez, as well as a couple of other faculty members, Oscar, Critsian, Lorenzo and Luis defy all odds and make a really fantastic robotics machine, beating out some of the top schools in the nation like M.I.T., Cornell, Virginia Tech and others. Not only is the story intriguing, but it is full of built-in drama, making it worth the emotional investment, as well as the time investment. What this movie also accomplishes is bringing about a relevant political position. Since the main four boys are all undocumented citizens, the threat of deportation is always looming in the background, despite the fact that each of the boys grew up in America and this is the only country they have ever known. Though they know they are destined for more and can offer a lot to the United States, especially Oscar, who is willing to serve in the armed forces for a country that isn't even his own, I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) doesn't see it that way and wants to ship them back to Mexico. The real-life outcome is also worth the journey through all of the usual inspirational film fodder, but we understand if you'd rather save the money and read about it online. All in all, this is a pretty well-acted movie, though it does teeter on formulaic and dramatic every now and then.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 52%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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