Harley is a young boy, who is a huge fan of the Banana Splits TV show. For his birthday, his family take him to a taping of the show. Meanwhile the executive of the TV network has decided to cancel the show. But for the Banana Splits, the show must go on…no matter what.
The Banana Splits TV show that only ran for two years. As a child of the 1970’s, I have vague memories of watching the Banana Splits on TV during the summer holidays. While I don’t remember much about the shows themselves, there is no denying the theme tune registered. It is truly one that will get stuck in your head.
In this film, the show has been running forever. It’s a film that re-imagines the Splits as robots, created to entertain children. For children like Harley, they still have that ability, even if time and society has moved on. It’s a nice touch, that idea of a children’s TV show still enchanting audiences even today, much like Sesame Street for example.
But the big change here is the Splits themselves. In the actual show, it was people in the costumes. Here, it is revealed they are actually robots. When the show is cancelled, their programming to keep the show going, no matter what takes over. To a degree, it’s somewhat similar to 1973’s Westworld film with perhaps a nod to 2001’s HAL, programmed to keep the mission going regardless.
(Never thought I’d have The Banana Splits, Westworld and 2001 in the same sentence. EVER!)
What follows is violent, bloody carnage as the Splits go on a rampage against those who cancelled the show, as well as those, who, well, get in their way.
Screenwriters Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas, have written a very humorous script, one that touches on the nostalgia of the Splits, but also on how people grow out of childish things most of the time. It has to be said, most of the characters are actually very cliched to a degree, the mother with her sons, one of whom doesn’t get along with her new husband, a father determined to push his daughter into a showbiz career, even is she is somewhat reluctant (when we finally see her audition, it is laugh out loud funny). A couple of Vloggers (and mobile phones) are in some ways this film is set in a slightly alternate modern times.
The film is directed by Danishka Esterhazy, who made the superb Level 16 that was shown at FrightFest Glasgow earlier in 2019. This film is completely unlike that film, but Esterhazy embraces the story and runs with it, delivering some great set pieces and some very bloody (and funny) deaths. The film builds to a pretty good final act, where there’s a nice touch that actually works well in the context of the story. That said, it does have that cliche of the mother going full Ripley to confront the Splits.
The cast really through themselves into the film. Dani Kind plays the mother Beth, forced to fight to save her children. Celina Martin plays Poppy, one of the Vloggers, whose story takes a very surprising turn by the end. Sara Canning and Naledi Majola play the producer and an assistant on the show. Finlay Wojtak-Hissong plays Harley who tries to keep his innocent belief in the Splits for as long as possible.
On paper this shouldn’t work at all. Take an established children’s show and characters and turn them into a blood splattered horror film. You have to give credit to not only the screenwriters for coming up with the concept but also for those who own the rights to the characters allowing them to do it. The show was created by Hanna-Barbera productions and you can almost see potential in making more of their properties into horror films. What next, Scooby-Doo as an outright murder/mystery horror film?
Actually, I would watch that!
When I first heard of this film, I thought, what the hell? But as I sat watching it, I had a big, dumb, goofy grin on my face throughout. It is laugh out loud funny, charming and just (very!) bloody good fun.
I had an absolute blast watching The Banana Splits Movie.
I think you will too.
Rating: ****1/2 out of 5