“Spare Parts,” the serviceable but uninspired inspirational film by director Sean McNamara, is a modern-day version of “Stand and Deliver,” minus the grit and realism.
In the classic 1980s film, based on a true story, a group of inner-city Hispanic kids in East Los Angeles overcome big odds to pass the Advanced Placement Exam in calculus. “Spare Parts,” also based on a true story, centers on four Mexican-American high-schoolers in Phoenix who overcome big odds when they enter a national underwater-robotics competition against MIT and Cornell.
While “Stand and Deliver” focused on race and poverty, “Spare Parts” does the admirable thing in examining the plight of undocumented children of Mexican immigrants. The teens are stuck in no man’s land: They spent their entire lives in the United States but are unable to go to college or get a job because they lack the proper paperwork.
Yet, with its sunny colors and upbeat soundtrack, you never get the same sense of socio-economic peril in “Spare Parts” that “Stand and Deliver” offered its audience.
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“Spare Parts” did attract some recognizable talent, including George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis and Marisa Tomei. But with the exception of a game if limited Lopez, the actors seemed to phone in their performances.
If “Stand and Deliver” struck many as a hard-hitting look at life in the urban ghetto, “Spare Parts” seems like a Disney after-school special by comparison.