Straight From Tribeca: ‘Spork’ Review
Although the heroine of “Spork” is a junior high-school student (Savannah Stehlin) who happens to be a hermaphrodite, the fact that she possesses both male and female sex organs isn’t even the strangest thing about her. For starters, her favorite movie of all time is “The Wiz,” which she’s watched no less than 50 times – she’s even got the movie poster up on her wall, so that she can talk to “Dorothy” whenever she’s lonely. She’s been known to talk to other inanimate objects, too, like a pet dog she had stuffed but still takes out for walks, or the poor man’s grave where her mother’s buried, right outside of Spork’s mobile home. Nor does her quirkiness get put on hold at bedtime. (Not many girls wear 3-D glasses to go to sleep.)
It’s a safe bet that a character like this would work well in a comedy, but as good as “Spork” is at making all of this funny, it does more with the material than you’d expect. It knows mere quirks aren’t enough to hold down a whole film, and instead takes a look at the character beneath, one who deals with deeply human fears and desires. Even if you’ve never met anyone quite like Spork, there’s more to her than her eccentricities would suggest, and the film manages to make her character not just believable but effective, too.
Though Spork’s more or less an introverted homebody, she has at least one buddy: Her neighbor, Tootsie Roll (Sydney Park). She does whatever she can to get Spork out of the house, like heading over to the dance club to bust a few moves. (Actually, Tootsie does all of the dancing while Spork just hangs around and watches.)
After she suffers a fall that requires her to wear a cast on her ankle, Tootsie says there’s no way she can compete in the upcoming talent show at school, and that the prize money she needed to visit her father is as good as gone. Spork, who wants to win the money for her, asks Tootsie’s clique to give her lessons – much to the chagrin of Spork’s narcissistic nemesis, Besty Byotch (Rachel G. Fox), who conspires with her cohorts to knock Spork down a few pegs.
Most of the kids that Spork deals with are just as malevolent as Betsy is, which is probably why Spork gets along so well with Charlie (Michael William Arnold), a loner who has two dads but assures everyone at school that he isn’t gay. When he tells her that his favorite movie of all time is “The Wizard of Oz” and shows her the poster he’s got on his wall to prove it, not only is she surprised that there’s a version of “The Wiz” that she’s never heard of, but that the girl who plays Dorothy in it isn’t black.
Moments like that have the potential to be either funny or sweet, but what makes “Spork” great is that it checks its ballot twice. While it has lots of sympathy for its characters, it’s not above poking fun at all of their little quirks, and gets a laugh whenever it has the chance to pull one off. Although “Spork” has its heart in the right place, there’s something to be said for its funny bone, too.
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