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[Sundance ’21] ‘The Sparks Brothers’ review: Edgar Wright documentary about the most influential band you’ve never heard of

Angst in my pants.

The Sparks Brothers seems to follow a common thread in music documentaries. Many of them claim to be about a band or musician that is more influential than anyone gives them credit for. Sparks have had hit singles, been a part of memorable soundtracks, and found international success. Yet, they have never found mainstream success. Director Edgar Wright makes his documentary debut in this Sundance world premiere that covers the career of the prolific band. Along the way, he makes a strong case for them truly not getting the recognition they deserve.

The opening gives an idea of what to expect from The Sparks Brothers. A series of rapid fires questions are sarcastically answered by Ron and Russel Mark. Questions raise from how did they meet to how many albums they have released. However, in these responses are lots of truth. The film does a deep dive into the band that is both enlightening and silly.

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The Sparks Brothers may prove to be a daunting watch. The film is over two hours and is an exhaustive look at the band’s career. Since this comprises five decades and over two dozen albums, it is a lot of ground Wright covers. This also means there is plenty of archival footage. This includes a funny clip involving Paul McCartney and a section devoted to a 2008 series of concerts in which they played each of their albums over 21 days. The Sparks Brothers is a treasure trove for fans.

[Sundance '21] 'The Sparks Brothers' review: Edgar Wright documentary about the most influential band you've never heard of

There are a number of interviews in The Sparks Brothers. While this is standard for documentaries, here it shows just how widespread the influence of Sparks is. Musicians as varied as Thurston Moore to “Weird” Al Yankovic are in the film as are comedians like Patton Oswalt. This is not a movie that just talks about significance; it shows it.

The film differs from other music documentaries in that it does not follow the rise and fall formula. The early moments of The Sparks Brothers does touch on their early life. It is only in these moments the film can be called standard. Once The Sparks Brothers gets into the music, things completely change. Wright does an excellent job of conveying the band’s love of what they are doing. For them, it is clearly about the art. This makes the film stand apart.

It is not difficult to find a good documentary about a band’s history. If a band has a long and/or sordid enough past, chances are a good film can come out of it .The Sparks Brothers is a fun look at an overlooked yet incredibly influential band. The interviews are more fun than the normal fare. It may be a formidable watch for those new to the band but fans will love it.

Continue to check out AIPT for our ongoing coverage of the Sundance Film Festival. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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