George Lopez headlines true story of unlikely Arizona students’ surprising victory in high-tech robotics competition
Stories of unconventional teachers inspiring disadvantaged students to greatness are not nearly as ubiquitous in movie theaters as they were in the 90s, but the new feature Spare Parts aims to bring the genre back with comedy star George Lopez in the lead and high-tech twist: The setting this time is robot-building contest.
Based on a true story covered in a 2004 Wired Magazine article by Joshua Davis, the film follows Lopez’ hard-working teacher as he agrees to shepherd a group of science-minded students from his underfunded Arizona community high-school through a NASA-sponsored underwater-robotics competition. In the film, as in reality, they faced steep odds (other competitors included teams from M.I.T. with expensive ‘bots versus theirs made from cheaper and repurposed materials) and social stigmas (all four students were undocumented immigrants at the time).
Lopez’s character is actually a composite of two educators who were involved in the actual events. While acknowleding that the film (which was originally titled La Vida Robot) takes some liberties with the story, Lorenzo Santillan – one of the real-life team members depicted – thinks that “a story like this, as an underdog story, will underline what a Latino family or what Latinos overall will contribute to society.” Spare Parts is due to be released on January 16, 2015.