Film Review: The Last Sparks of Sundown

last sparks

Physical comedy duo Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez, best known as Pajama Men, have been such a brilliantly talented, thrilling, inventive live act I’ve always wondered how they would translate to the screen. Or to put it another way, could they translate to the screen? It’s pretty impressive that they have landed the lead roles in this indie movie, but I’m not sure if it quite plays to their strengths.

Or to be more precise I’m not sure if the film, written and directed by James Kibbey, works at all. Allen and Chavez are two dumb and dumber American brothers Harvey and Matthew Sparks, who inherit an ancient mansion in the English countryside. But the plot soon thickens. The pile has some unexpected house guests and the duo don’t seem to be helped by their bumbling solicitor Geoffrey, played nicely by Miles Jupp (who looks impossibly young here, suggesting the film has taken a while to reach the screen).

When Allen and Chavez do gigs their shows are a mixture of scripted scenes and improvisation. It looks as if they have gone for them same technique here, but the script is not scintillating and their improvised work does not have the same excitement as it does when you see it being created for the first time in a theatre.

In a scene, for instance, that most resembles their previous work, they attempt to speak simultaneously to prospective buyers of the house. Onstage they do this because they are playing a two-headed monster. In the film they just come across as idiots. Although I guess this is fair enough as the Sparks brothers are idiots.

Towards the end a comedy-thriller narrative emerges with their rival Rupert (Christian McKay) pulling a few surprises and Kayvan Novak chipping in. There is also a romantic subplot which involves country girl Lucy (Emily Bevan). I was particularly annoyed by the fact that in the promotional material her pictures portray as much more overtly sexier than she is in the film, but, hey, I guess that’s marketing.

There are some nice moments and the sun-dappled English countryside looks pretty throughout, but for better or worse, the whole thing has a thrown-together feel and does not really hang together. If you like Pajama Men’s live shows you might find something to enjoy, but The Last Sparks of Sundown may also have you yearning to see them in the flesh instead.

The Last Sparks of Sundown is at the Prince Charles Cinema from July 27 - 30, info here.

Watch a trailer here.

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