The Sparks Brothers

I shoulda been a fan

Ever hear of Ron and Russell Mael? Neither had I (see note below). And that’s the point (one of them) of Edgar Wright’s intricate and intimate documentary on “the most famous and influential band you never heard of.” Songwriter Ron and vocalist Russel made up the core of an ever-changing variety of bands collectively known as Sparks. 

In five decades, they never had a top-ten hit. But they never really wanted one. They consistently ignored the wishes of profit-oriented recording company suits, frequently reinventing themselves and doing exactly what they wanted. They’ve been at this so long that they’ve been accused of ripping off bands who, perhaps unknowingly, have been taking inspiration from them.

I love their weirdness, their cheeky and irreverent vibe, their plentiful wry humor and their artistic integrity, and I was definitely tapping a toe or two. 

A side benefit for film buffs is seeing noted director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver, Last Night in Soho) in full gifted-documentarian mode. Even if you’re not interested in these guys’ music, it’s fascinating to watch how Wright puts together all the talking heads, archival footage, animations, etc.

Note: A long-cherished dream of theirs was to write and score a movie, and they finally did. My first awareness of the Sparks was Annette on Amazon Prime, which, aside from the opening number, is a pretentious, nearly unwatchable mess. (140 min)