THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE (2019)
Directed by Danishka Esterhazy
Written by Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas
Starring Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Steve Lund, Maria Nash, Naledi Majola, Richard White, Sara Canning, Celina Martin, Kiroshan Naidoo, Keeno Lee Hector, Lia Sachs, Lionel Newton, Daniel Fox, Jenna Saras, Vash Singh, Lily Spangenberg, & Eric Bauza as the voices of the Banana Splits!
I’m not a huge BANANA SPLITS fan. I vaguely remember watching reruns of their cartoon show and seeing their faces at Six Flags, but I couldn’t name even one of the Sid and Marty Kroft creations before watching this film. But when I heard there was going to be a horror movie using the Banana Splits as murderous robots who run amok on a kids’ show, I have to say I got a little giddy. Even the released trailer showed promise with its darkly comedic tone and what looked to be hints of gratuitous gore. With a little bit of creativity, I think THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE could have been something pretty amazing.
Unfortunately, THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE feels like a generic horror movie with the notable fuzzy monsters crammed in for nostalgia’s sake.
The film centers around a typical modern family comprised of mother Beth (Dani Kind), step-father Mitch (Steve Lund), stoner teenage son Austin (Romeo Carere), and Harley, a pre-teen with an obsession with the Banana Splits. When Harley receives tickets to the Banana Splits Show, he is over the moon, but he doesn’t know that the show has been cancelled and he will be attending the very last taping. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Splits (automated machines costumed in fuzzy costumes) are acting a bit more wonky than usual and their new software update seems to have given them some murderous tendencies, making this show the last in more ways than one for the fans in the studio audience.
The biggest problem with THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE is that it is full of missed opportunities. There just doesn’t seem to be much thought in the script area. It’s never made fully clear why the Banana Splits are acting as murder as they are. Maybe it is the fact that they are old machinery, or their updates are bad, or maybe they have become sentient and resentful of the show being cancelled. They play things fast and loose with the rules and the reasons why. A few tweaks in the script could have made this film work. For instance, the film lives in a world where the Banana Splits is still a popular TV show since 1969. There is also a subplot where Mitch is not so great a dad to his stepchildren. Why make the Splits modern? Why not make them a show that Harley watched with his real dad or grandpa? Why not there be an announcement that the show is being brought back a la the way it was done on Cartoon Network a few years ago? Why not have them use the same machines they used, but somehow while gathering dustballs, the mechanical animals have developed some kind of disliking for their audience? I think the reason none of these questions are addressed or where even thought of is because at the core level of this film—the scripting stage, no one really cared to make it work logically or more importantly creatively and in an entertaining way.
Moving on to the way the film is made; this film really doesn’t have any energy at all. One look at some clips from the old BANANA SPLITS show and you will see extreme zooms, quirky props, and energetic antics from actors in suits who were clearly athletic and comfortable under all of that hair and felt. THE BANANA SPLITS movie has none of that. The show itself is filmed on a wildly colored soundstage, but is filmed flat and steady. The Banana Splits themselves move around like it’s the first time in ill-fitting costumes and can’t see or move. There are tons of sports mascots who are able to do amazing feats of athleticism on every pro and college team across the country. They couldn’t have found four of them to be in this film?
The family themselves are ok, but no one is getting an Oscar for this film. The voice acting for the film is the most notable as a simple glance at Youtube shows that voice actor Eric Bauza is able to channel all of the different voices of all four Splits. The problem is that the writers of this film didn’t really commit to even give the four Splits their own personalities, so while they sound differently, they don’t act that way.
There are a few moments of gore that make the film fun. One guy is forced to swallow a lollipop and the effect is fun and cartoonish. There is also a ball pit kill that is a lot of fun as the body slowly sinks to the bottom of the pit as if it were quicksand. Aside from that, this is a lazy film from top to bottom. I guess it is supposed to be a retooled script for FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDY’S with the BANANA SPLITS crammed in at the last minute, but I don’t know much about that franchise. It does seem to borrow heavily from everything from CHILD’S PLAY to WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. That combo should have been a winner, but THE BANANA SPLITS MOVIE is far from opening that golden ticket.