Updated: Aug 19
The Banana Splits was originally a US TV show for kids from Hanna-Barbera (the same studio that brought us the likes of The Flintstones and The Smurfs) that aired in the UK in the mid-seventies and early eighties, most of which comprised of re-runs as the show only totalled around 31 episodes.
I watched it as a child, but my recollection of the series is vague at best, and non-existent the rest of the time. In fact, all my middle-aged brain was able to dredge up about the show was that there was a strange bipedal monkey/dog/bear hybrid that wore sunglasses and had a large toothy grin. That’s it. I can’t remember any of the other characters, what they were called, or even, what the show was about. However, there is one thing that sticks in my head about the show, and will probably be there until the day I die; and that’s the theme tune. Whether I remember it accurately or not is debatable, as all that’s stuck with me is the bastardised version that kids – or at least, juvenile little boys such as myself at the time – sang with much gusto and fervour.
That version would go as follows:
One banana, two banana, three banana, four
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more
One with a hammer, one with a pick
One with his trousers down, playing with his
Traalala Lala-Lala, Traalala Lala-Lala.
Naturally, when The Banana Splits movie was announced this childhood version of the song dug its way up from my memory and expressed itself via my rather croaky vocal cords, much to the chagrin of my wife. Although let’s be fair, if you want to hear the theme tune then just listen to the version by The Dickies, which is far superior.
Sitting down to watch the trailer, I found to my utter delight that rather than a kid’s movie, the series had been turned into a horror film. Basically, I was sold on it. Yes, the trailer did have hints of Five Nights at Freddy’s, that annoyingly nonsensical, jump-scare videogame that you-tubing let’s players went crazy for about 5 years ago. But I wasn’t going to let my dislike for that particular series deter me.
Then, like most things, the movie drifted from my brain until suddenly, one day I was idly browsing for something to watch when I espied The Banana Splits; smiling maniacally and waving an axe.
With a wondrous almost childlike curiosity filling me, I settled down to watch. The theme tune starts and what ensues is 90 minutes of calamitous cancellations, why lollipops are a choking hazard and what would happen if Robocop’s prime directive was “The show must go on.”
The movie centres on a boy named Harley who is such a huge fan of The Banana Splits that for his birthday, his parents take him (and a friend) to see a live recording of The Banana Splits show. Unfortunately for them, a shoddy software update that coincides with the imminent cancellation of the show leads to a rogue robotic rampage, lashings of blood and most importantly of all, a movie that is fun to watch.
I went into this with pretty much no expectations at all, other than that childlike sense of glee at the premise of the movie, and my lack of knowledge or anything beyond the haziest of recollections did nothing to detract from the experience. The acting is above what I was expecting with even the kids doing a good job and not coming across as whiney brats. The inevitable douchebag characters weren’t written in such a way as to make them especially hateable, and most of them had motivation for what they were doing, well except maybe for Mitch, but he was a dick, even if it was one that was stuck as a tired character trope.
The comedic timing works well and had me laughing on more than one occasion and better yet, there was no overreliance on jump scares which in itself deserves a huge pat on the back to all involved.
Sure there are a few plot issues, the ‘splits tend to go from having really robotic movements (complete with robot noises), to running around on stage like, well, like a person in a costume would. And things like locking up a group of children only to immediately give them a key to free themselves thereby renders the entire scene of taking them away and locking them up rather pointless. But, it’s a film about fuzzy animatronic children’s entertainers that go rogue and start killing people, so suspension of disbelief and the ability to overlook things goes without saying. Fortunately, the faults don’t get in the way of the movie, nor do they derail the proceedings. If that had happened, I’d be spending my time here moaning and spewing vitriolic hate, but that’s not happening, because I had a fun time watching the movie and, having robotic children’s entertainers going on a murderous rampage is still far less harrowing than what many children’s entertainers from my childhood did in real life.
There’s some surprisingly good cinematography with some really nice looking shots but most of all, the movie scores on originality; I don’t recall an actual children’s show being made into a horror movie before. Maybe in another thirty or forty years, there’ll be a horror movie based on a popular kids TV show that’s currently airing and we’ll be watching Peppa Pig jumping up and down in bloody puddles.
Either way, this was a fun way to spend 90 minutes of my time, and, as long as you don’t take things too seriously you’ll find yourself with an entertaining and enjoyable movie that is well worth taking a look at.
All together now.
One banana, two banana, three banana four
Four bananas kill a bunch and make a load of gore
Murderation, mutilation, getting sawn in half
Come and watch the show and there will be a blood bath