August 19, 2019 The Banana Splits Movie (Movie Review)
One banana, two banana, three banana, GORE! What do you get when you juxtapose an adorable batch of Hanna-Barbera characters with a bloodbath? Why, you get the The Banana Splits Movie, of course. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment delivered the Horror offering to Digital on August 13th, 2019, and now the film makes its way to Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on Tuesday, August 27th.
Meet little Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong: The Kindness of Strangers 2019), a huge fan of The Banana Splits TV show who is too excited to sleep because it is his birthday. As a special surprise, his mother Beth (Dani Kind: Wynonna Earp series, Workin’ Moms series) has purchased a set of tickets to take her family to a live taping. It’s guaranteed to be the perfect family outing—that is if his nineteen-year-old brother Austin (Romeo Carere: Pyewacket 2017, Don’t Talk to Irene 2017) and disinterested father Mitch (Steve Lund: Haven series, Bitten series) can get along. Rounding out the group is young Zoe (Maria Nash: Killjoys series, The Handmaid’s Tale series), who was invited even though she and Harley are not actually good friends.
On the oldest soundstage at Taft Studios, the audience are being corralled into their seats by page Paige (Naledi Majola: Projek Dina series, Trackers series) in preparation for the main event: the arrival of Fleegle (Terry Sauls), Bingo (Buntu Plam), Drooper (Kori Clarke), and Snorky (Brandon Vraagom), along with their not-so-beloved pal, Stevie (Richard White in his acting debut). Their diverse audience includes Instagrammers MrThaddtastic (Kiroshan Naidoo: Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell video 2018, Deep State series) and MissPoppylarity (Celina Martin: The Other Kingdom series, iZombie series), pretty young Parker (Lia Sachs in her acting debut) and her obnoxious stage dad Jonathan (Keeno Lee Hector: Bluestone 42 series, 24 Hours to Live 2017), and, of course, sassy Zoe, sweet Harley, and their entourage.
Behind the scenes, news of the show’s imminent cancellation is making the rounds and no one is smiling as the tension mounts. To make matters worse, a post-show meet-and-greet with The Banana Splits is about to unleash a series of unfortunate events that leads to a bloodbath—but the show must go on!
Clocking in at 86 minutes, The Banana Splits Movie was directed by Danishka Esterhazy (Suddenly Ever After 2010, Level 16 2018), and written by Jed Elinoff (R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour series, Malibu Rescue series) and Scott Thomas (Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja series, Malibu Rescue series). It also features the acting talents of Sara Canning (War for the Planet of the Apes 2017, A Series of Unfortunate Events series), Vash Singh (A Hero’s Counsel short 2018, Critters Attack! TV movie 2019), Lionel Newton (Sleeper’s Wake 2012, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 2013), Daniel Fox (Generation Kill 2008, Eye in the Sky 2015), Eric Bauza (Ben 10: Omniverse series, Transformers: Robots in Disguise series), and more.
If you’ve never heard of The Banana Splits, you are not alone. Former stars of The Banana Splits Adventure Hour series, which ran from 1968 to 1970, the Hanna-Barbera created psychedelic, bubblegum band of friendly furries were a comedic, family-friendly cross between The Monkees and The Muppets. So, yes, that makes the premise of The Banana Splits Movie similar in some aspects to the popular Horror-themed Five Nights at Freddy’s game, and therein lies the conundrum.
The problem, if there is one, lies in its bizarre screenplay which does not have a clear target audience. The Banana Splits themselves are far too old and obscure to appeal to the film’s demographic, while the appeal of gigantic furries tends to lean toward a crowd far too young to be viewing this Horror flick. That leaves us with a film that, if you take away the gruesomely creative deaths (including death by lollipop), often feels more like a family drama unfolding around a puppet show.
Sorry to say, unless you are a Ludilophobe The Banana Splits Movie it not scary, spooky, creepy, or horrifying. Disturbing, perhaps, in that a bunch of life-sized, animatronic stuffed animals are running around murdering people, but that’s certainly more amusing than upsetting; and, in fact, the film leans more heavily towards dark humor. Consider this akin to watching the Teletubbies flip out and disembowel a few people: sure, it’s funny at first, but then you just have to wonder why you’re spending your time watching the entire perverted fiasco.
Despite all of this, The Banana Splits Movie is well-done, with some lovely moody cinematography thanks to Trevor Calverley (Sink 2015, Beyond the River 2017), and is a somewhat enjoyable if awkward watch. Much of this is thanks to the film’s wonderful ensemble cast who put their all into their roles, no matter how entirely ridiculous they might be. Literally at one point in the film Kind’s momma bear Beth ferociously declares, “Come on you fucking son of a bitch,” as she faces off against an animatronic menace. Although, it is the film’s youngest actors who steal the show: Nash’s Zoe is a little firecracker with a huge personality, while Wojtak-Hissong’s Harley is a wonderfully sweet but quirky little boy that you cannot help but love. His shyness balanced against Zoe’s precociousness makes them the perfect team for this quest.
Truth be told, The Banana Splits Movie comfortably sits somewhere in that valley of strange and peculiar films that are likely to entice some simply with their quirkiness, while entirely repelling others. So, if watching a bunch of fuzzy creatures go off the rails on a crazy train sounds like a good time, well, check out The Banana Splits Movie, which Cryptic Rock gives 3.5 of 5 stars. And yes, that is Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump singing “Tra La La Song,” the Banana Splits’ theme song.