Those nonsense words have meant something to me since I was a kid watching the original ‘Banana Splits Adventure Hour’. Now, thanks to the work of writers Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas (creators of Best Friends Whenever, the finest teen-time-travel show Disney ever canceled), it will forever mean something else. Something… darker.
When I watched the trailer for The Banana Splits Movie, I thought it was a fun take on an older show. I did not expect the care and attention that Elinoff, Thomas, director Danishka Esterhazy and the cast would put into this project.
Maybe you remember the Banana Splits as they were. Maybe you’ve just sat disbelieving as an older friend told you of the TV show where grown people in weird animal suits re-did The Monkees. Either way, if you enjoy vicious, efficient horror, you should check this re-imagining out.
The movie stars Harley (Finlay Wojitak-Hissong), brother Austin (Romeo Carere), mother Beth (Dani Kind), father Mitch (Steve Lund) and friend Zoe (Maria Nash) as they attend a taping of titular show, which is supposed to be a fun-filled birthday for young Harley and business as usual for Rebecca (Sara Canning), the producer of the series.
The side characters nearly steal the show, with bitter human co-star Stevie (Richard White) and Splits superfan Thadd (Kiroshan Naidoo) both used to great comedic effect. Very little goes to waste in this script, as beat after beat is set up and executed.
The Splits are autonomous robots (a feat of engineering handwaved away without a thought) who, of course, go haywire. Mayhem ensues. The script is tight, clocking in just under 90 minutes. We get to the show taping in no time, and the deaths are spectacular in a campy, 80s horror way. Practical effects and fake blood abound.
The story is incredibly efficient in how it gets me from opening credits through family introduction and into the action. I felt trust from the pacing immediately. The filmmakers obviously care about the source material, but the eye was on a genuinely entertaining final product. The ending contains both my favorite kill of the movie, as well as a lovely opening for more story.
From the trailer, I thought perhaps the robot Splits were possessed, or cursed, or maybe the ghost of a serial killer blah blah blah. I was pleasantly surprised to find the story is even simpler – the show is being canceled, and the robots aren’t happy about it. Something about this setup – the easy revenge motive, the us/them tension it creates between the child fans and the adult co-workers – works wonderfully for me. I found myself siding with and against the Splits at various points, hoping for some parents to get theirs, while scared for other characters.
Bloody, inspired, silly, and streamlined – The Banana Splits Movie made up a mess more fun than expected.