When a horror film featuring the Banana Splits was first announced just a few months back, I immediately knew that I wanted it reviewed on our site. I also worried that I may not find the time to get to it.
Luckily, our good friend (and soon-to-be returning Halloween Horrors contributor) Rob Von Matterhorn of The Saturday Morning Vault was willing and ready to take the review duties over for this assignment. Please make him feel welcomed! If things go my way (and they rarely do), you may see even more contributors gracing this website with their presence next year.
When it was first announced that a horror movie based on The Banana Splits was being developed, fan expectations were low. Then when it was announced it would be released direct to video and a month later would be shown on the SyFy channel, the only way expectations could have gotten any lower is if they announced Rob Schneider would be starring.
Here’s a quick history lesson for those of you who might not be familiar with the Banana Splits (i.e. most people under the age of 40). In 1968, Hanna-Barbera came up with the idea of making a Saturday morning kids show that would be a cross between The Monkees and Laugh-In (which also probably means nothing as an explanation to people who were too young to remember the Banana Splits). It featured giant furry animals, designed by Sid and Marty Krofft, that played in a band and would get into wacky adventures, with different cartoons interspersed between the live-action segments. Oh and those live-action segments? Those were directed by Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies). So, the show had a lot of highly talented people involved.
The show lasted two seasons, and continued on in reruns and syndication for another decade. It was a launching pad for Sid and Marty Krofft’s television empire, and had one of the most catchy theme songs of all time. That song, along with others from the show, have been covered by a number of bands throughout the years as well. Take all of this together, and the show created a lot of good memories for its fans, and has very much become a sacred beast for many of them.
As someone who was one of these fans, I had a big extra-crispy bucket of doubts about how good the movie could be. I was expecting bad, and guess what? The movie delivered. The Banana Splits is a cheaply made, unoriginal horror movie that barely takes advantage of any of the ideas and concepts from the old show. Aside from the theme song, the characters, and their kickass yellow car, virtually nothing else from the original show appears in the movie. There wasn’t much in the way of inside jokes or Easter eggs for the dedicated fans. It really felt like there wasn’t a single person involved with the movie that had ever watched an episode, let alone gave a crap about the show. In fact, that probably could have been the movie’s subtitle: “The Banana Splits: No One Gives a Crap.”
And that might just be why I enjoyed it so much!
Ironically, it’s probably the complete lack of effort or interest from anyone involved in making the movie that made it so amusing. The Banana Splits Movie successfully pulls off the concept of “being so bad it’s good.” If any real amount of effort was put in to making the movie, it probably would have made it worse. Think back to another movie that started from the work of Sid and Marty Krofft, The Land of the Lost from 2009, starring Will Ferrell. It had a budget of a hundred million dollars, a big-name actor, and was a steaming pile of garbage. The Banana Splits Movie, on the other hand, was probably made from the winnings of a $1 scratch-and-win lotto ticket with a script written at 2AM on the back of a napkin from Denny’s.
The entire process from idea to conception to release took about six months… and it shows. The story features the Banana Splits going haywire when their show (which has almost nothing to do with the original TV show) is cancelled and they take it out on the studio audience and TV executives! There are a couple of families fighting to survive, and that’s really enough discussion about the plot. The more I think about it as I write this, the more ridiculous and full of plot-holes it becomes. Just know that it doesn’t make too much sense, but it’s enough to set up a couple of fun kills. I will admit, I was grossed-out once or twice by the “dollar store” special effects, and I laughed out loud several times. It’s not the best bad movie I’ve seen by a long shot, but it’s worth watching once. At least, when it shows up on the SyFy channel in September.
So to those Banana Splits diehards who were angry about the movie (like me), I’d still suggest checking it out. It has so little to do with the original show that it’s really hard to get mad at it. And if you still don’t want to budge, I just want to remind you that the existence of this terrible film does nothing to affect the original Banana Splits that we know and love.