The Sparks Brothers (2021) Review
The Sparks Brothers is a brilliantly creative documentary befitting the band’s inimitable charm and career.
It’s important to disclose that I wasn’t really familiar with Sparks before I saw this. I knew “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us,” but the names Russell and Ron Mael meant little to me beyond their roles in the new documentary by cineaste director Edgar Wright. Wright has always had an ear for a good tune, which put me in safe hands. It’s a similar project to something like Scorsese’s mammoth documentary on George Harrison: Wright knows what makes Sparks great, and he wants to share it with everybody.
Charting the band’s monolithic career of five decades and over 500 songs, Wright shines a reverent light on pop music’s most influential yet painfully overlooked act. There’s an infectious charm to The Sparks Brothers (named for the band’s cheesy, short-lived moniker that followed ‘Half-Nelson’ and preceded just ‘Sparks’), in no small part due to the duo’s wild and magnetic charm, interviewed in suave black-and-white and only once without the other.
Wright will no doubt find success in bringing Sparks to new audiences
Russell sits on the left and Ron, having traded in the Chaplin moustache for a thin, John Waters-esque pencil moustache, on the right. Their music speaks for itself, and Ron’s lyrics are as deep as you want them to be. They’re a cool pair to spend 140 minutes with, and the soundtrack isn’t bad either.
Appearing as a talking head alongside the likes of Beck, Neil Gaiman and maestro producer and collaborator Tony Visconti, Wright credits his occupation as Fanboy, and while he goes for the easy joke, he is perhaps the perfect choice to guide new fans and die-hards alike through the band’s career. The documentary is littered with the trademark visual gags and puns but they never feel out of sync with the Maels’ self-effacing wit and sharp humour, nor like a distraction. There’s never a dull moment throughout.
Sparks continue, somehow, to find new ways to reinvent themselves, and Wright will no doubt find success in bringing Sparks to new audiences. If you aren’t a fan now, you will be by the end.