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Parents' Guide to

Spare Parts

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

True story about underdog teens is predictable but sweet.

Movie PG-13 2015 83 minutes
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Anyone who's seen an underdog story knows from the very beginning that these kids are going to triumph -- otherwise there wouldn't be a film about them. But despite the story's predictability, it's still a heartwarming (if occasionally cheesy) tale about a group of people who are often maligned: undocumented immigrants. The Mexican-American teens depicted in the movie face seemingly insurmountable odds, but they manage to do their best with less money and fewer opportunities than their competition.

Those familiar with the real story (and the excellent documentary about it, Underwater Dreams) will note that the Hollywood version includes many fictionalized elements. While some are eye-rollingly unnecessary -- i.e. the promise of romance between Lopez and a fellow caring teacher played by Marisa Tomei -- the heart of the story is true to the real events. PenaVega (Big Time Rush) gets to romance his real-life wifem Alexa PenaVega, who plays Oscar's understanding girlfriend Karla -- a U.S. citizen. Although Lopez is no Edward James Olmos, he's a good fit as the team's adviser, and Jamie Lee Curtis is breezy and fun as the kind but no-nonsense principal who's thrilled to finally have some good news. Unlike the documentary, Spare Parts stays away from any overtly politicized view of immigration, but the message is the same: Bright, clever students are everywhere, and they can succeed given a chance.

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