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The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
  • Composed by John Debney
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2015 / 49m

Based on a true story, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water tells the story of an aquatic sponge and his rival, a copepod, who have to work together in order to retrieve the secret Krabby Patty recipe from a nasty pirate.  John Debney’s score opens with a great track, “Burger Beard On Island”, which is what Cutthroat Island would have sounded like had it been released after Pirates of the Caribbean shifted the Hollywood notion of what pirate music should sound like.  It does little to disguise its roots (indeed, I suppose that’s the point) but the tune is fun and the construction of the piece quite witty.  I suppose the easiest way of describing the rest of the score, the highlight of which is some full-bodied action music, is to say it’s exactly what you’d expect Debney’s music for a film like this to be – which will be a good thing for some, leave others more nonplussed.

He’s been writing film music for 25 years now and has scored a hundred films in that time; I’ve heard a high proportion of those and I’ll be damned if I can identify any singular musical voice running through them, even a single distinguishing characteristic that would make anyone sit up and think “ah, that’s John Debney.”  He’s so absolutely chameleonic, seemingly able to write any style of music to satisfy the needs of any filmmaker; perhaps he’s the perfect film composer in that sense.  In this score we have that great pirate music at the beginning, then we go through a 1980s James Horner-style main theme, a bit of Mancini jazz, sampled drum loops, 1950s Herrmannesque melodrama complete with theremin, some Hawaiian guitars, even a Bernstein-style western theme – it feels like all life on earth is represented here at some stage.  The best track is “Bubbles to the Rescue”, the Horner-style theme getting a soaring workout.  As is always the case with Debney, it is all done with no shortage of technique on display and is a thoroughly professional job, but the absence of a unifying sound even within this one score, let alone in his body of work as a whole, is a limiting factor.  Given how bitty it is and that many of the cues consist of a number of shorter ones pasted together (the track titles feature more slashes than you’d find in the men’s toilet at King’s Cross Station during rush hour), it’s impressive that it stands up as a listening experience as well as it does – and testament to the composer’s skill at crafting decent music for just about any kind of film.  Do I remember a note of it after it finishes?  To be honest, no – but it’s enjoyable while it lasts.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Mike (Reply) on Sunday 29 March, 2015 at 02:12

    Haven’t had a chance to hear Debney’s version yet, but I was a little sad that Gregor Narholz didn’t come back from the 1st movie. I really enjoyed that score, the music when Patrick and Spongebob think they are dying was actually really emotional, and the action music was well orchestrated and exciting.

    I do agree with you about Debney not having any recognizable style at all. I like some of his stuff, hate some of it, but never remember a note of it.

  2. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Sunday 29 March, 2015 at 19:15

    Debney may not have much of an individual style but that’s not to say he hasn’t written some very memorable music!

  3. ANDRÉ - Cape Town. (Reply) on Monday 30 March, 2015 at 13:35

    Some of those memorable scores with amazing melody lines include LAIR… HATFIELD & McCOYS… THE SCORPION KING… CUTTHROAT ISLAND & DRAGONFLY while his music for THE STONING OF SORAYA M evokes Islam’s Sharia Laws that devotees of that religion have to conform to. The END OF DAYS testifies to DEBNEY’S ability to make Satanic influences powerful & frightening while the Semitic & Aramaic references for THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST instantly transport us to ancient, troubled Judea. DEBNEY’S scores are imaginatively constructed, elegantly crafted & skillfully produced. If South Africa’s problematic exchange rate [almost double compared to a year ago] stablises, I’ll be ordering this one among the other ‘must haves’ on my list.

  4. Mike (Reply) on Monday 30 March, 2015 at 16:13

    Oh, I forgot about Scorpian King- that is probably his best score(Cutthroat Island is just too overbearing. The end credits suite is all I ever play). Too bad the Scorpion King theme is basically Waterworld, by JNH. I still play it often. I like Dragonfly, but it’s basically The 6th Sense end track. I like his stuff, but it’s just too easy to play guess the temp track.