It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
“Spare Parts” attempts to be an updated version of “To Sir With Love” with 100% less Lulu but a whole lot more science.
Now, I love me some Lulu and will always cherish that cinematically mod time capsule from 1967. But at least this most recent testament to the importance of education has much more on its brain than, say, dancing to groovy pop ditties. Besides, science is hot right now as shown by the likes of “Interstellar,” “The Theory of Everything” and “The Imitation Game.”
It helps immensely that the film’s star, producer and Sidney Poitier fill-in, the eminently likable George Lopez in a rare dramatic role as a PhD-toting engineer forced to be a substitute science teacher, is clearly wearing his own heart on his sleeve in this true-life underdog story. Just as Poitier ended up serving as a mentor and father figure to his Cockney charges, Lopez’s Fredi Cameron inadvertently becomes more than just an temporary instructor to the four Hispanic teens who beat the odds – as well as college-age teams hailing from MIT, Cornell and Virginia Tech – by winning a nationwide robotics contest.
But what truly saves “Spare Parts” from being just a glorified after-school special is that these Mexican-born kids, who attend a scrappy working-class high school in Arizona, are all undocumented immigrants who live in constant fear that they or family members could be deported at any time. And without a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship, their chances for achieving their dreams are severely limited.