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Sparkler

Starring Park Overall and Freddie Prinze Jr.
Written by Darren Stein and Catherine Eads
Directed by Darren Stein
website: www.sparkler-themovie.com

IN SHORT: Not a bad first effort.

Everyone should have a dream and for a 39 year old trailer park inhabitant named Melba May (Park Overall), that dream is to win a magazine giveaway sweepstakes. Melba's husband Flint (Don Harvey) is a trucker who cheats on her at every turn - he's boffed most of the girls Melba plays cards with every weekday eve. When Melba catches Flint redhanded, as it were, she's out the door to her mama's trailer across the way.

If Melba is the "white trash" (as she'll be described later in the flick) then her hubby is white scum. And that's only the start of Sparkler, a much better than average first shot from writer/director Darren Stein.

Meanwhile, out on the highway, three wet behind the ears twentysomethings on their way to Vegas, to "earn" the rent money, are waylaid by a flat tire. While they wait for Triple-A, they park in a bar where Melba, all dressed up in her mama's finery, asks 'em to dance. Thus, the poor meet the poorer and Sparkler (a nickname given to Melba after the earrings she's wearing) plumbs the depths of bawdy humor in a better than average indie slice of life story.

The kidlets, Trent (Jamie Kennedy) Brad (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Joel (Steven Petraca) want nothing to do with a woman old enough to be their mother but Brad, the would be "talent agent" gives Melba his card, which she uses when she discovers that one of her earrings is probably stuck to Brad's chest. So, the innocent trailer park babe heads for Vegas and a rendezvous with her destiny.

Most first films are painful because they don't contain enough story to keep you interested. That's not a problem with Sparkler, which has story and subplots galore, all of which continually bring together characters who, for the most part, don't want to be together. Melba is eternally the innocent, completely unaware that the kidlets don't want her around, but determined to do the right thing when she is asked to take over a blackjack hand proceeds to make a bundle. The kidlets dump Melba. Melba dumps Flint. Flint needs to find Melba or he'll lose what he considers her share of the sweepstakes money she doesn't know she's one.

We haven't even gotten near the lower depths strip club where Melba's old high school pal ("she dated Siegfried and Roy!") now works.

While there's plenty of story and color, Sparkler looks cheap - that's probably in keeping with the economics of the characters- and sounds terrible. The film is improperly lit and a bluesy underscore is mixed way too loud. Though there is a composer credit, it sounds like production music and distracts from the telling of the tale. The strength of the individual characters is almost enough to make up for the lack of production values.

Cranky's has no complaint about the performances. You may recognize Park Overall from zillions of seasons on a TV show called "Empty Nest". She's made a career of playing lower economic parts and she fills Melba's shoes beautifully. Don Harvey, as Flint, is cartoon scum and the three kidlets all acquit themselves nicely. Cranky's seen Freddie Prinze Jr. in three films this week alone. When does this kid sleep?

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Sparkler, he would have paid...

$5.00

Sparkler was seen in a private screening, as Cranky doubts it will rise higher than the arthouse circuit, if it gets anywhere near you at all. Cranky put it at date flick level because, as far as the oodles of first efforts we see go, this ain't painful.

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995-2008 by, Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, T their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy AwardT(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995  -  2013 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.