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Smurfs: The Lost Village
  • Composed by Christopher Lennertz
  • Sony Classical / 2017 / 62m

After the box office disappointment of The Smurfs 2 in 2013, Sony has rebooted the franchise with Smurfs: The Lost Village, which unlike the previous films is pure animation, without the live action elements.  Starring Demi Lovato as Smurfette, Rainn Wilson as Gargamel and Mandy Patankin as Papa Smurf, with the Smurfs trying to locate the mysterious lost village before Gargamel does.  While it received stronger reviews than the previous pair of films, the box office return wasn’t great, so it might be a while before we see them on the big screen again.

The score comes courtesy of the prolific Christopher Lennertz, who tends to flit between comedies and animations these days, having shown earlier in his career just how good he could be on a big canvas: I remember how delighted I was when he briefly took over the Medal of Honour video game series from Michael Giacchino that his music was remarkably consistent in style and indeed quality with that Giacchino had been writing; and his debut film score, Saint Sinner, created a lot of positive buzz in 2008.

Christopher Lennertz

While not quite the same as those things of course, animations do tend to lend themselves to allowing big, raucous scores from composers who choose to go that way, and it’s little surprise that Lennertz has indeed gone for a big, orchestral romp of a score for this film.  The album actually opens with a lovely ballad, “You Will Always Find Me in Your Heart”, written by Lennertz with KT Tunstall and sung beautifully by Shaley Scott, but after that it’s instrumental score nearly all the way to the end.

Both of the first two cues, “To the Village” and “Meet the Smurfs”, open with a very (very) James Horner-like heavenly choral passage (think Willow, amongst others) and the same composer seems to have had influence over some of the ethereally beautiful sounds used to represent the magical forest, recalling the bioluminescence of Avatar.  But while the score does contain quite a few such moments of calm reflection, inevitably the film’s demands are such that Lennertz is rarely able to stick around that sort of thing for very long, and there are numerous passages of action.

“Get Those Smurfs!” is the first of the strong action cues, with a full-bodied, brassy action style that’s very entertaining.  Later, the style is briefly reprised in “Rabbit Warren Hoedown” before the piece goes all-out Elmer Bernstein/John Wayne (it’s great).  In between is the madcap, Raymond Scott-like “Freezeball Chase”.  Later, “They’re Coming / Dogfight” is a really rousing piece of action as the score nears its conclusion, with the dark “Gargamel Attacks” (featuring some macabre choir) and dastardly fantasy piece “Dark Magic” leading to the eventual emotional release and relief of “Smurfette Saves the Day”.

Between the action cues there are some calmer moments – “Campfire Stories” is lovely little pop instrumental-style piece which leads into the biggest version of the score’s expansive main theme in “Raft Chase”, developing into high-octane action music (with a bit that will sound very familiar to John Williams fans).  It really is a very fine theme, and it’s a shame the film didn’t give Lennertz a bit more of an opportunity to use it.  Everything leads up to a really nice end credits suite which nicely summarises the score’s main melodies.

Almost inevitably, for all its quality the music does have a somewhat skittish feel when taken away from the film, as scores for animation often do, with frequent changes of style and pace, but there is real panache to it all and it’s very entertaining.  I’d love to see the composer get to work on a really meaty project again that would give him the scope and canvas to do another Medal of Honour: Rising Sun, but the truth is that there aren’t really that many films being made that do – and this sort of project is right up his street.  It might not set the world alight, but Smurfs: The Lost Village is an enjoyable album that will satisfy all fans of Lennertz’s orchestral writing.

Entertaining orchestral action/adventure | |

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