While the appropriately titled "Spare Parts" might feel like it has been assembled from bits and pieces of other inspirational movies, that doesn't mean the fact-based drama is any less effective when it comes to hitting all the requisite crowd-pleasing chords.
Based on a Wired magazine article by Joshua Davis about a quartet of undocumented Latino high school students in Phoenix who entered an underwater robotics competition, director Sean McNamara's film is impressively buoyed by a cast of young newcomers and seasoned pros.
Playing an out-of-work engineer who takes a temporary teaching job, George Lopez soon finds himself mentoring a group of seemingly unlikely tech geeks, rallied by the quietly determined Oscar Vasquez (former Big Time Rush band member Carlos PenaVega).
Armed with a minuscule budget and a lot of PVC piping, they look to a NASA-sponsored San Diego competition as a way to move beyond hardscrabble home lives and tenacious Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
The film might be predictable, but thanks to those attuned performances (including reliable turns by Marisa Tomei, Esai Morales and a quirky Jamie Lee Curtis) plus a relevant, character-driven script by Elissa Matsueda, the production ultimately succeeds on its own skillfully constructed merits.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for language, violence.
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes.
Playing: In general release.