Friday, June 18, 2021

Summer welcomes 'Sparks'-filled documentary and sweet, colorful 'Luca'

Sparks Bros, Russell (left) and Ron Mael, in a see-through moment.
Rarely, if ever, has a pop doc about celebrities, especially musicians a lot of people wouldn't recognize if they walked right past them, hit theaters on the first weekend of summer. Except today.

Yes, "The Sparks Brothers," a fab, hit-filled bio from director Edgar Wright ("Baby Driver"), tells the five-decades long tale of Ron and Russell Mael, still churning out music at 75 and 72, respectively.

Never heard of them? Well, you're not alone, since their on-and-off successes, including 25 albums and almost 500 songs, are recognized more easily around their Southern California home base, but truly most significantly overseas (especially in England because even some loyal fans likely think they're a couple of Brits).

As Wright's long and loaded doc notes: The Sparks duo -- apparently named because their antics reminded someone of the funny and rhyming Marx brothers -- "were always considered weird or just a novelty (act) in America."

Regardless, actor/comedians are among their legions of admirers, as Mike Myers, Patton Oswalt, Fred Armisen and more testify in the film. So do members of various bigger-name bands, most notably the biggest-of-all Beatles, represented by Paul McCartney and a nifty cartoon, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (from Wright's "Hot Fuzz" and "Shaun of the Dead") voicing admiration as John Lennon and Ringo Starr.

There's something for snooty cinephiles, too, with mentions of French New Wave, legendary comic filmmaker Jacques Tati, and the likable brothers' own burning, yearning desire to make a movie. Their performance appearance in the disastrous 1977 disaster film, "Rollercoaster," doesn't count. This boffo documentary might be the ultimate stepping stone to getting their wish fulfilled.

("The Sparks" currently are flying on big screens across the U.S., including the Cedar Lee, Cinemark Valley View, Regal Westlake and Atlas Great Lakes in northeast Ohio.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: for language; 2:20; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Also available today, albeit ONLY on the Disney+ streaming service, is Pixar's remarkably absorbing "Luca," a legitimate fish out of water tale with an abundance of "Pinocchio" overtones. 

The "fish" in this case is the young and adventurous title character, actually a little sea monster (sweetly voiced by Jacob Tremblay from "Room"), who works underwater (just off the Italian Riviera coast) shepherding fish for his parents (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan). 

If anyone is simply looking for genuine summertime fun, the charmer "Luca" has it all, particularly the colorfully magic animation that has become a lasting Pixar trademark, a memorable one-armed man, his tomboy daughter, and the lovingly lively score from composer Dan Romer.

By the way, the most lasting character in the film might turn out to be Luca's deep-sea doozy of an Uncle Ugo. Stick around -- or fast-forward -- for his special close-up following the closing credits.

Rated "PG" by MPAA: rude humor, some language, thematic elements and brief violence; 1:35; $ $ $ $ out of $5

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