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Canadian Bacon
  • Composed by Elmer Bernstein and Peter Bernstein
  • Quartet Records / 2013 / 40m

A satire on the first Gulf War, Canadian Bacon is Michael Moore’s only non-documentary film.  I remember him at the time from the very witty TV Nation, before he went on to find greater fame with his more controversial documentaries a few years later.  John Candy stars as a northern sheriff who finds himself caught up in a phoney war with Canada concocted by the US President (Alan Alda) to boost his opinion ratings.  He’d long since disavowed comedy, but the prospect of working with Moore was attractive to the politically-minded Elmer Bernstein, enticed back to recycle his Animal House formula which had proved so popular on so many films in the late 1970s and through the 1980s.  As with many of his later scores, the composer worked with his son Peter, whose co-composing work was credited here (it wasn’t always, according to this album’s liner notes); and his daughter Emilie provided the orchestration.

The Bernsteins’ score is nothing groundbreaking, but is entertaining and flavourful, unsurprisingly playing straight against the frequent broad slapstick of the film.  The main theme is a strident march, going with the militaristic tone of the mock invasion, and it’s entertaining enough, but despite its frequent appearances through the score it’s never really developed that much.  More obvious pleasure comes from some of the little set-pieces that litter the score – the amusing distortion of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in “Hacker”, the beautifully-tender “Mountie Letter”, the overstated pomp of “Presidential Motorcade”, a couple of entertaining action cues (the over-the-top “Omega Force Three” brings a real smile to the face), a briefly-heard theme for the Russian President in “Vlad & Co” – it does all feel rather bitty (26 tracks make up the 40-minute album) but there’s plenty of entertainment to be had.  You know what you’re going to get from a Bernstein comedy score and this certainly delivers that; it doesn’t quite have the magical main theme which raises up the best of them, but fans of the style will almost certainly love it anyway.

Rating: *** | |

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