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Fantastic Mr Fox
  • Composed by Alexandre Desplat
  • ABKCO 0602527221342 / 2009 / 46:43

Like many boys of my generation, growing up I was enchanted by the marvelous world of Roald Dahl’s children’s novels.  His fantastically silly tales were funny and exciting.  Fantastic Mr Fox marks the tenth attempt to turn one of his children’s novels into a movie and seems interesting in several ways; for one, it’s animated (the first animated Dahl film since 1996’s James and the Giant Peach) – it has a very unlikely director (Wes Anderson, whose last couple of films haven’t found the audiences they deserved) – and perhaps an even less likely composer, Alexandre Desplat.

Much though I have been impressed by almost all Desplat’s scores in the last few years, I have found myself wondering when he would branch out and do something completely different.  Well, he has.  This is a very eclectic soundtrack album (it goes from “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” to Jarvis Cocker, via The Beach Boys and Burl Ives) – and Desplat’s score is very much the same.  12 of the album’s 25 tracks are credited to Desplat, but the total running time of his contributions is just 20 minutes, which gives an impression of how bitty it all is.

Alexandre Desplat

The score actually works far better if programmed out and filtered away from the rest of the album, where is seems much less fragmented, so I’ll recommend you do that too.  Its first few tracks are dominated by comic pizzicato strings, plinky-plonky piano and quirky – but not unappealing – music which is a bit reminiscent of the stuff Mark Mothersbaugh has written for previous Anderson films.  Then, half way through the album, it makes a sudden change in gear, with “Whack-Bat Majorette” continuing the general feel of silliness, but in a different way – and then a couple of wonderful Morricone pastiches, “Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar” and “Just Another Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail (behind a Chinese Restaurant)”.

This is a very strange album.  You have to be in just the right mood for it, else it is more likely to irritate than entertain.  Desplat’s creations are impressive, and could hardly be further from the sort of music he’s famous for – but I suspect a lot of people will buy this album to hear his score and come away a little disappointed (the completely gorgeous “Canis Lupus” at the end the obvious exception).  The best music on the album are the two Georges Delerue pieces, but if you programme the songs out then you can certainly get some satisfaction from Desplat’s unexpected, witty contribution.  ***

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