Spare Parts

Spare Parts

In Theatres: 
Jan 16, 2015
Running Time: 
83 minutes

In 2004, a team of four Hispanic students from the then unknown Carl Hayden High School in Arizona competed in an underwater robotics competition against some of the best technical and engineering colleges in the country such as MIT and Virginia Tech. With less experience and far less money, they built a robot, nicknamed ‘Stinky,’ that stood strong against the bigger and better schools. Spare Parts tells the story of how these underdogs faced off against all odds and took on the country’s best and brightest.

Fredi Cameron (George Lopez) is an engineer who been in and out of work for the past few years when he finds himself at Carl Hayden High School as its new substitute teacher. While there, he finds an eager young student, Oscar (Carlos PenaVega), who wants to enter the competition, seeing it as his only opportunity to go somewhere in his life after the Army rejects him because he’s in the US illegally. Together they put together a rag-tag team consisting of Christian (David Del Rio), the brain of the operations, Lorenzo (José Julián), a gifted but troubled mechanic, and Luis (Oscar Guitirrez), the muscle of the group. What initially looks to be a hopeless cause soon develops into true friendships and a real chance at turning some heads at the competition.

Spare Parts reminds me of 188’s excellent Stand and Deliver. It’s a heartwarming story about a group of kids that practically nobody believes in who challenge the status quo and rise up to their full potential. Lopez’s Fredi Cameron isn’t as inspiring as Edward James Olmos’s Jaime Escalante, but he brings a more serious tone to his typical comedy shtick. It’s a refreshing side of Lopez that we don’t see that often.

The film is also heavy in its portrayal of immigration. Carl Hayden is predominantly Hispanic, many of whom are in the country illegally. It can get pretty heavy at times, and everyone is affected. Oscar, after being denied by the military, resorts to sleeping on the school’s bathroom floor at one point because he can’t go home in fear of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) picking him up and deporting him. Lorenzo faces an abusive father who places all the blame on him and is solely responsible for looking out for his US-born brother who is constantly getting in trouble. The film isn’t afraid to hit hard with these very real and very touchy subjects. It also doesn’t hesitate to throw in some well-placed humor when necessary, either.

Spare Parts is an underdog story in every meaning of the word. It chronicles the hardships these kids persevered through as well as the rewards of their hard work and determination. The film doesn’t shove its ideology down audiences throats, but instead just lays everything out neatly in front of you. Spare Parts presents a heartwarming and inspiring family tale while making you think about its deeper issues at the same. Not an easy feat, but the film handles it superbly.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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