The Banana Splits Movie. 2019.
Directed by Danishka Esterhazy.
Starring Dani Kind, Finlay Wojtak-Hissong, Romeo Carere, Steve Lund, Maria Nash, Richard White, Sara Canning, Celina Martin, Kiroshan Naidoo, and Naledi Majola.
A boy named Harley and his family (brother Austin, mother Beth, and father Mitch) attends a taping of The Banana Splits TV show, which is supposed to be a fun-filled birthday for young Harley and business as usual for Rebecca, the producer of the series. But things take an unexpected turn — and the body count quickly rises.
No, you’re not “bananas” for wondering “how?!” or “why?!” Hannah-Barbera’s Banana Splits ended up as SYFY horror villains. Lovable Saturday morning ambassadors now slaughtering their audience. Danishka Esterhazy’s The Banana Splits Movie joins Child’s Play as 2019 reboots reprogrammed by corrupted A.I. chips, slashing up studio visitors on a shoestring budget. It’s hard to imagine the thought process behind a property revival so out-of-left-field yet oddly noncommittal when it comes to sinister rebranding. A midnight slay-along that plays like something created to ensure rights don’t revert elsewhere, without a clue how to exploit and capitalize on brand recognition.
Dani Kind plays Beth, a generous mother who answers son Harley’s (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) birthday wish with passes to see The Banana Splits live. Accompanying ticketholders aren’t particularly enthused – including stepfather Mitch (Steve Lund) and tag-along friend Zoe (Maria Nash) – but Harley is on cloud nine. Watching Bingo, Fleegle, Drooper, and most of all, Snorky in the “flesh?!” Harley even gets to meet his animatronic best friends backstage, on a day when greedy producers nix The Banana Splits’ show in favor of “alternative” content. What’re four musical automatons to do in the wake of cancellation? Start murdering staff and guests, of course!
Mind you, Snorky and company are *clearly* played by actors (reportedly dancers) in oversized mascot costumes. Nothing technological about Drooper’s presence beside one goofy “upload” insert where binary code flashes across his sunglass lenses (simulating data transfer). I’m not asking SYFY to solder together Chuck E. Cheese’s replicants, but tonality and execution never align in the film’s given state. A very “Puppet Master sequels” feel in comparison, except even Full Moon uses practical puppets. Esterhazy’s task is not an envious one, as the director struggles to “horror-ify” encumbered humans in saggy furs meant to be heartless killing droids. Slapstick cartoonishness that rarely lands and neuters scant scare attempts.
The Banana Splits Movie favors comedy and shoehorns horror – and by “horror” I mean intermittent gore. Despite *inarguable* Five Nights At Freddy’s inspirations, “evil” mode is distinguished only by red eyes (not ferocious redressing). Attempts at laughs are imbalanced and failed by character actors forcing B-Movie tropes, as larger-than-life figures of innocence improv massacres between juvenile skits. Instagram influencers, stage-dad divas, and abusive, cheating parents all meet grisly fates – and it’s never as fun as intended. Blame that on bargain performances and a misunderstanding of black humor lacking wit and stumbling over deliveries.
Sans Fleegle’s Magic Shop where a body-separation trick exposes internal organs, “tortures” are missed opportunities. Like, say, when wounded adults pass through a children’s obstacle course while Drooper chucks cream pies from a distance. Why not boobytrap or enhance the act to accentuate the film’s turn from good-natured kiddie programming to A.I. gone haywire? Bloodshed exists in the form of mallet-to-melon bashes, lollipop stabs, and flame effects – but only as momentary distractions. Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas’s screenplay isn’t twisted enough to capitalize on this marketing stunt of a film never funny enough to properly balance genre elements with Banana Splits sentimentality.
Like most SYFY programming, reason plays no role in cinematic explanations. The Banana Splits Movie blames Drooper’s coded infection on corporate cancellation – a commentary on how humanity cannot control machines – without ever establishing methodology. Cut to the VP of Programming’s furnished office, Mr. Hot Shot sitting in his expensive leather chair smoking a cigar (sequences this cheesy transcend generic office B-roll). Show a kooky technician, the band’s frazzled “father,” rambling on about how the machines have a mind of their own. Unleash the beasts on alcoholic human sidekick Stevie (Richard White), as they chuckle pre-recorded catchphrases then chase children and adults across lighting scaffolds. It’s all such…nonsense. Not the bonkers kind you laugh at over beers, either. The Banana Splits Movie is held together by a curly-haired boy dancing Snorky’s Shuffle to avoid danger, and it’s as flimsy a tether that sounds.
Quite frankly, I’m still baffled thinking about SYFY’s intended audience. Horror fans would need to come from a nostalgic pocket who might remember Fleegle’s antics and relish in the canine’s murderous turn. Banana Splits fans would also need to be after-dark horror fans. Children would need to sneak a watch past bedtime and, once again, favor horror. Worse off, none of those audiences will benefit from this one-punch joke that’s fumbled over hamfistedly. As if a stand-up comedian demanded reassurance every few minutes from listeners, asking, “This is funny, right?” Cue the crickets.
The Banana Splits Movie – bare with me – plops out of a familiar horror-comedy mold, much like housewives once produced the same uniformed Jello desserts. It doesn’t matter what ingredients enter gelatin — same formation, same lackluster product each time. Danishka Esterhazy does her best to spice up another forgettable horror-comedy using the standard horror-comedy recipe, but alas, forgettable fates repeat. Judging by Level 16, Esterhazy appears stuck adhering to SFYF’s uninspired generational confusion. I might not understand who Drooper’s rampage is meant for, but can confirm it’s sure as hell not me. Even though animals doing people things – ESPECIALLY IN HORROR – is my specific and inexplicable jam.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).