- 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.