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The Boy Who Could Fly
  • Composed by Bruce Broughton
  • Varèse Encore / 2012 / 34:37

After a family relocates following the father’s suicide, the daughter becomes friends with a local autistic boy, who dreams he can fly.  The thing is, he can.  So goes the premise of The Boy Who Could Fly. I find it amusing to learn from the liner notes that the producers spent some time deciding whether the trailer should show the boy flying – apparently they didn’t want to give away the big secret.  I’m surprised nobody realised that the film being called The Boy Who Could Fly was not exactly shrouding that particular plot point in a great deal of mystery.  The film wasn’t a success, so it was a surprise a couple of years later when a sequel was announced, about an autistic boy who always dreamed of making great bacon.  Sadly The Boy Who Could Fry never actually got past the pre-production stage – apparently the teaser poster showing the boy frying was considered to be too much of a spoiler.

The score was by Bruce Broughton, going through the most high-profile part of his career at the time following the success of Young Sherlock Holmes and Silverado.  His delightful music aims for – and largely achieves – a similar sort of effect to John Williams’s seminal ET, soaring away with a magical air at every opportunity; indeed, this score may just be the closest anyone’s ever come to emulating the spirit of Williams’s great scores for all those fantastic family films without directly aping his music (in terms of the composition, there’s as much of a resemblance to Jerry Goldsmith as there is to Williams, and indeed Broughton retains an impressive amount of his own voice here too).

Bruce Broughton

The score’s chief asset is its brilliant main theme, spectacularly warm-hearted and joyful.  It appears in almost every track – there are full arrangements in the opening and closing titles and in the particularly impressive “Flying” – rarely does much time pass before Broughton showcases the theme in one form or other (and it’s one of his very best, so that’s hardly a surprise).  Even when the score enters darker territory, such as “Eric Agitated / Louis Defeated”, the composer still manages to throw in the theme, using it in that instance in an arrangement suggesting great tragedy (in fact it’s one of the standout cues, beginning with haunting softness before gradually developing through the tragic feeling into rather manic action music).  “Milly and Eric Flee” sees the music getting even more desperate, before the wonder and the magic return in the splendid “In the Air”.

This wonderful album was in fact a re-recording done shortly after the film recording by Broughton with the Sinfonia of London (the musicians’ union fees made a release of the original tracks impossible).  He didn’t do any rearranging, literally just recording using the original score, but did put some real thought into how to fashion it into the best possible album (oh for those days).  The result is one of the finest albums of his career, given a welcome re-release by Varèse Sarabande in their Encore series in 2012 after a long time being out of print.  If the film had been successful, I’m sure The Boy Who Could Fly would be seen as one of the great fantasy scores of the 1980s; since it wasn’t, it’s down to the likes of me to say that it really is worthy of consideration for a place in that group.  It’s magical music, highly recommended.  ****

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  1. Robin Fiander (Reply) on Saturday 24 November, 2012 at 08:09

    The Boy Who Could Fry! That made me chuckle…