The Sparks Brothers (Review)

The entire purpose of Edgar Wright’s documentary is to showcase Sparks to the world. Everybody involved here clearly thinks the band are superb, and that they deserve veneration and a wider listenership. I mean, there are even parts when Wright explains his film’s purpose. These parts, well, they give it a TV documentary, or DVD extra feel. This certainly limits it as a ‘film’ but it helps it to achieve its MO. The film sells Sparks. It sells them well. In fact, at points you will want the doc to just stop so you can go listen to Sparks. So, while it may not be a great documentary film in its own right, if that isn’t its purpose, that probably doesn’t even matter. This tried to do one thing and nails it.

The core issue here is the structure, which also links to the length (at two hours twenty, it’s a bit much, especially for how one note it is). This is an exhaustive dive into Sparks. It goes through the band from beginning to end, one album at a time (there are 25 albums) and, quite frankly, this structure would work better for TV. It is frustratingly linear, and it leads to a lot of repetition. The same people keep coming back as talking heads (this is the documentary’s main way of operating) or different people make the same points. There is an overwhelming array of evidence for the points being made, and it is very impressive, but it is still just a lot. The thing needs cutting down, needs rearranging and needs to be as inventive and experimental as the band themselves. People keep saying how Sparks ask the audience to come to them and do not bow to convention, this documentary is the opposite of that.

However, there is more to the documentary than this. Wright goes out of his way to give it a style and, visually, it is very appealing. It feels like a way of keeping the audience involved while it goes through everything (and is perhaps a touch shallow in this way) but it has style. There are animated sequences, there is archival footage (including wider film footage used to add interest) and it is nicely edited. The film has a look and this look elevates it.

Again, as a documentary, this is serviceable. There is visual flourish but the overall structure is limiting. It achieves its aim though, it sells you Sparks and they are a thing worth selling. If only the film were a better pairing for their spirit, then it could do them justice as well as advertising them excellently.

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