The Banana Splits Movie is just so wrong on so many levels. I have one question to the producers – Why?
The Production: 2/5
When I first saw the trailer and press release for The Banana Splits Movie, I initially thought this must be some new trailer parody on Funny or Die. I so wish that were the case, but no, this is a “real” movie now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and various streaming services, and set to premiere on SyFy later this Fall.
It is young Harley’s (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) birthday, and to celebrate, his family is taking him to a taping of The Banana Splits, his favorite TV show that somehow is still on the air 50 years after it premiered. Unbeknownst to the audience, the show has been cancelled by Andy (Daniel Fox) the network’s new Vice President of Programming minutes before the show is about to begin. One of the Banana Splits, Drooper, overhears the cancellation while being reprogrammed (apparently the Splits are robots, not actors in suits!), and misinterprets the phrase “the show must go on,” prompting him and the rest of the Splits to go on a killing spree.
For those that may not remember, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was a real show that aired Saturday mornings on NBC from 1968-1970. It was a variety show created by Hanna-Barbara, featuring the Banana Splits as hosts, who would perform musical numbers and skits as interstitials before introducing animated or live action serials, such as Arabian Knights, The Three Musketeers, Micro Ventures, and Danger Island (directed by Richard Donner). The show uses the characters of the Splits – Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snork – but turns the show into something more as a cross between Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and Double Dare, adding a human character named Stevie (Richard White) who tires of being second banana (pun intended) to a bunch of robots. Using the show as a backdrop for a bunch of robots gone haywire and gruesomely murdering cast, crew, and audience members trapped within the soundstage, in my opinion, was just a bad idea. Would the movie have worked if they had used a fictional TV show? Not likely, as the acting is often over the top, as is the gore, and the story and characters are your stock slasher types – the selfish step father Mitch (Steve Lund), the clueless mother who must rise to the challenge Beth (Dani Kind), the weird kid Harley, the misunderstood older brother Austin (Romeo Carere, who is made up to look like The Monkees’ Micheal Nesmith), the evil scientist Karl (Lionel Newton), the obsessive fans Thadd (Kiroshan Naidoo) and Poppy (Celina Martin), etc. Director Danishka Esterhazy (Level 16) and writers Jed Elinoff & Scott Thomas (Malibu Rescue) milk the single joke of a kids show turned R-rated horror movie for the full 89 minutes, which is 88 minutes too long.
3D Rating: NA
The Banana Splits was shot digitally, and the results are rather disappointing. There is a haze that permeates the film throughout, which at first I thought was my display, so I checked the contrast settings which were normal and untouched, so it is definitely either in the source material or an intentional creative choice. This haze causes the image to appear soft, which affects the fine details like individual strands of fur that often look clumpy. Colors are vibrant although not quite to the level of the original TV show. But then again, this is a direct-to-video release that is destined to premiere as a SyFy Saturday Night Movie.
The Banana Splits Movie features a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that is disappointing for a horror film. This is a very front and center heavy track, playing it safe for broadcast on television. Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, but surrounds are rarely used for anything discrete besides adding ambience to the scene. LFE is average, about what you would expect from a weekly television show.
Special Features: 2/5
The Banana Splits: Behind the Horror (1080p; 8:21): The cast and crew discuss how creepy the original costume designs were and how they naturally lend themselves to a horror film.
Terror on Set (1080p; 6:25): Director Danishka Esterhazy, Executive VP of Blue Ribbon Content Peter Girardy, and Production Designer Bobby Cardoso discuss the set, costume, and overall production design of the movie.
Breaking News! – The Banana Splits Massacre (1080p; 1:59): A series of TV news briefs about the events in the movie.
DVD Copy: The movie in 480p with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, plus The Banana Splits: Behind the Horror featurette.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere.
What would have likely been funny as a trailer parody has been stretched beyond its limit to an ill-conceived 89 minute R-rated feature that I fear many parents or grand parents who lovingly remember the original series may unwittingly rent at the local Redbox for the kids and be in for a major surprise and shock. For the curious, I’d suggest waiting for the SyFy broadcast later this year.