I was kind of a dork in school. OK, I was a big dork.
As the years have gone by, I’m not sure I’ve changed so much as the fact that being a dork just doesn’t matter. This is the key fact that the “popular kids” in school just don’t seem to get but, conveniently, is the subject of many films.
Young “Spork” is an outcast at her junior high school, and the titular character of 2010’s “Spork.” With her out-of-control frizzy hair, thick glasses and trailer-park upbringing, Spork has always found herself on the outside looking in. To make her adolescent awkwardness even worse, she is also a hermaphrodite, a fact that somehow all of her classmates know and ridicule her for — it’s also the source of her unfortunate nickname.
As the film opens, she has no friends. The bus ride to school is not a time for her to socialize before the grueling day begins, but rather a chance for her peers to load her giant hair with spitballs and worse. Spork eats lunch alone and is victimized by everyone in her school, especially the young group of popular girls lead by Betsy Byotch (Rachel G. Fox.)
It isn’t until a near accidental gym glass confrontation with Betsy that Spork starts to realize she doesn’t have to take the constant abuse sitting down. Spork’s pass of a basketball to Betsy, which is caught by the young tyrant’s nose, sets Spork up as a champion among the outcasts. Soon Spork makes her first friend, Tootsie Roll, a neighbor in her trailer park.
Tootsie Roll is impressed by Spork and invites her out to the local dance club — which inexplicably allows junior-high-schoolers in to dance among adults. It’s here we learn of the talent show and dance competition that Tootsie Roll wants to win so she can take the prize money to go see her father in jail. It’s also this point in the film that it really starts to fall apart.
From the moment “dance competition” is mentioned, we know where the film is going. We can see the film is moving in nearly the exact same footsteps as its predecessors, and we just know Spork is going to enter and win that show. Somehow the victory at a talent show will make Spork’s life better, and everyone she knows will suddenly see how wrong they have been for ridiculing the unfortunate child.
“Spork” is full of overly shallow and stereotypical characters. From Spork’s white-trash brother, “Spit,” to Tootsie Roll, to Chunk’s overbearing Chinese parents, every character is a one-dimensional joke. The actors are over the top, their performances are unrealistic and borderline racist.
To make matters worse, writer/director J.B. Ghuman Jr. doesn’t seem to know what kind of film he’s making. At times you believe he’s moving for a colorful and abstract imaginative movie. Most of the time the film resembles a Nickelodeon after-school special. However, the language and subject matter makes this film unacceptable for its target audience.
Surprisingly, Savannah Stehlin is quite good as Spork. Her dialogue is spared the nail-biting degradation the rest of the cast must suffer through, and her performance is sympathetic and believable. There were many times I just wanted to give the poor child a hug and assure her that soon none of this will matter.
But then the story comes back and brings the entire mood and theme down.
As a theme, the outcast in school is an important one. Children can be horrible little monsters to one another. The behavior that goes on in school, if repeated in the real world, would get people fired or locked up in jail. Yet somehow our children, when they are most vulnerable, are cast into a ferocious pit of popularity and prestige or punishment. It’s a serious subject that can be handled well and comically, but not if it falls back on those same stereotypes that are used as weapons in the halls of our youth.
I give “Spork” credit for trying to handle the difficult topic and for Stehlin’s performance. But everything else just stinks of unreality and childhood drama manufactured by Disney and Nickelodeon daytime TV shows.