Nearly 2 ½ hours with the cult band Sparks just doesn’t seem like enough.
“The Sparks Brothers,” is one of the most enjoyable documentaries I’ve seen in years. And yes, I’m one of the fans of this band that enchanted a certain following in the 1970s and has kept reinventing itself for 50 years.
Director Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”) has created a marvelous film as quirky and fascinating as its focus.
Russell and Ron Mael, the central force in the band Halfnelson that transitioned into Sparks, certainly aren’t well-known in the United States. I was a fan of late-night television shows such as “Night Flight” and “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” in the 1970s and 1980s. (That was before social media made musicians/music accessible at the push of a button.)
It was on one of these shows that I first saw the band – I think they were performing “Wonder Girl,” but I can’t remember now. I do remember energetic Russell Mael with his kinda-Marc Bolan, kinda-Freddie Mercury vocal stylings, and his brother, stone-faced Ron Mael with his robotic keyboard delivery and Chaplin-esque mustache, were an incredible sight.
For decades, I thought they were British. They’re not. They’re from California, but they made it bigger in Great Britain than they did in the states, despite their discography of 25 albums.
Like Sparks themselves, the movie includes all kinds of approaches to telling their story, from stop-motion animation to animated line drawings and talking-head interviews with fans such as Flea, Todd Rundgren, Beck, Patton Oswalt and Wright himself.
What’s their music like, you may ask? I strongly recommend you listen to this, and this, then judge for yourself. They’ve been labeled “glam rock,” but they never stopped evolving and were/are far more than such a label indicates.
The film details their disappointments, their almost-made-it moments and the frenzy of their dedicated fans. You won’t learn about the people close to them in their lives, but maybe Wright is saving that for another documentary.
This is about their music, their attitude, their wit and a band that’s beyond classification.
If you’ve ever felt like a woofer in tweeter’s clothing, this is the film for you.
Running time: Two hours and 21 minutes.
At Cinemark, Davenport.