Starring George Lopez, Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis, Carlos PenaVega,
Spare Parts may look slightly like an after-school special, mostly due to the inexperience of the writers, based on an incredible true Wired magazine article. However, the undeniable charm of the young actors, especially A Better Life star Jose Julian, makes this uplifting drama impossible not to enjoy. Sean McNarama (Soul Surfer) understands sentimental and inspirational stories need seasoned actors to hang the emotion on and sell tickets. Lopez comes with his own specific fan base, but the casting of Oscar winner Tomei (In the Bedroom) and Curtis (Freaky Friday) give Spare Parts the extra reason to watch.
Four undocumented immigrants in a Phoenix, Arizona suburb live their lives in fear of being deported. They attend a community high school with a disheartening success rate. The Principal (Curtis) interviews substitute applicant Fred Cameron (Lopez) for a position that they both understand is temporary. Mr. Cameron is put in charge of a science club, where enthusiastic and desperate senior Oscar Vazquez wants to enter a robotics competition in an attempt to get a scholarship. He quickly understands that these young men have no positive male role model and must decide to stay in a low paying teaching job or take a higher paying engineering job leaving the students once again abandoned.
Just when you think it’s going the way of Music of the Heart or A Dangerous Mind, Spare Parts instead feels more like a triumphant sports film.
Spare Parts paints a pretty impossible situation, and the fact that we are watching a film about this subject makes it pretty apparent from the onset that something news worthy is going to happen. Not without an agenda, Spare Parts highlights just a few of the many immigration problems in the US concerning young adults, in particular an overpopulated public school where the administration struggles to gain control. However, just when you think it’s going the way of Music of the Heart or A Dangerous Mind, Spare Parts instead feels more like a triumphant sports film.
Curtis hams things up with her fast hallway walking, intercom antics and self serving walky-talky, but her character keeps the energy up in the early part of the film. Tomei brings things down to earth with the kind of serious, grounded performance we have come to expect from her name being attached to a film. Lopez is playing an interesting and admirable guy, but there isn’t much to his performance beyond reading the lines. The film shows visually what teenagers can and can’t do without papers, and what few options they have. It’s the story beyond just getting to America, it’s the consequences children have after they cross the border.
Not sure if a film can be adorable, but Spare Parts comes pretty close.