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  • Composed by Henry Jackman
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2015 / 38m

The latest alleged comedy starring Adam Sandler, Pixels sees aliens confused after they see Pac-Man and Donkey Kong etc coming from earth and think they are under attack, so they send versions of the video game characters to come and kill us all instead (something that most critics would have preferred to actually happen rather than watching the movie, it would seem).  It’s directed by Chris Columbus (really) whose movies have inspired a great film score or two over the years.  Seeing Henry Jackman attached to it I was rather expecting a retro 80s video game sound to the score (especially given what he did for Big Hero 6) but in fact it’s the polar opposite, a big orchestral action score, reminiscent in particular of Alan Silvestri with a dash or two of John Williams thrown in for good measure.  Jackman plays the comedy entirely straight (it’s actually more of a surprise these days if a composer doesn’t) and it’s a pretty nice surprise of a score.  (There is a bonus cue that is written in a retro synth style and it would have been interesting – though perhaps unpalatable as a CD – if the whole score had been done like that.)

There are a couple of primary themes – one, doom-laden, for the aliens and another, warm and heroic, for the arcaders gathered together to save everyone.  Each is given a large number of workouts in the relatively brief score, and while neither exactly sticks in the memory, they’re decent enough.  There’s a militaristic vibe to some of the music (the rhythm is the same as that wonderful opening to Jerry Goldsmith’s Macarthur theme), a lot of the orchestration is pure Silvestri, the action music is generally rollicking and there’s a couple of genuinely lovely pauses for breath (“Unconditional Love” the highlight).  It’s got all the ingredients to be really great, but sadly a few things hold it back.  For one, as is often the case with comedies, the cues are so short there isn’t really time for anything to get developed; also, while the chimes from Back to the Future may be here, the Silvestri it most closely resembles is more at the Night at the Museum end of the scale and I can’t say I’m ever all that inspired to listen to that, let alone someone else doing a version of it.  Finally, as mentioned, the themes are there but just aren’t that distinctive.  Still, there’s certainly entertainment here and it’s all great fun, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the style.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. tiago (Reply) on Sunday 9 August, 2015 at 05:35

    Although this score is certainly not a masterpiece, I really prefer Jackman when he writes on a more “orchestral” way than his dark, electronic and ear-splitting scores for G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Captain America.

    It’s curious to note that Jackman’s best score to the date was for a movie that was also about 80’s videogames, Wreck-It Ralph. Pixels is more conventional than that one, but is less fun too.

  2. mastadge (Reply) on Monday 17 August, 2015 at 14:37

    Jackman’s just not for me. I remember when Kick-Ass and Gulliver’s Travels came out, and everybody was like, ooh, lite adventure with woodwinds. X-Men, Puss in Boots, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6 . . . I guess the music is functional, it hits the right notes, but I’m never able to connect with it at all. Nothing in it ever makes me want to return to it. I guess he’s had a few cues that I’ve gone back to, like “Up Is Down,” but I’ve never been able to understand why people are so much more excited by him than by other RC guys of his generation like Ramin Djawadi.