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The Young Messiah
  • Composed by John Debney
  • Lakeshore Records / 2016 / 70m

Focusing on Jesus’s life as a seven-year-old, when he returned to Nazareth and became aware that he was not really the same as other seven-year-olds, The Young Messiah opened to generally poor reviews and very little in the way of box office receipts.  Director Cyrus Nowrasteh’s previous film, The Stoning of Soraya M, received an excellent score by John Debney and his participation in this was announced very early; and one of the composer’s career high-points was his score for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, so hopes were high that the inspiration he clearly found on that project would return this time.  While there are certain stylistic similarities between the two scores, to be honest this one – while perfectly competent and at times a lot more than that – doesn’t really play in the same league but having said that, the good parts are so good that it’s certainly going to attract a lot of fans.

There is a handful of themes, which are fine and effective and tick the right boxes but even after being repeated countless times they don’t really stick in the memory.  The main one, “The Young Messiah Theme”, is the album’s opening cue – with world music percussion accompanying orchestra and choir, it’s very nice indeed; then in “Alexandria Egypt” a variant (with clear lineage to The Passion of the Christ) is heard, alongside plenty of appealing ethnic sounds, and later in the piece the score’s main “action theme” (if you can call it that) is heard, with the standard Hollywood suite of Middle Eastern instruments and female vocalist.  Much of the score is built from these ideas in the opening two cues, but there is such repetition over the very long album – and some of the sombre suspense material in the middle section is really not that interesting – it does begin to wear out its welcome, which is a pity because when it’s at its best, there is some really strong music here – particularly when it takes on a slightly more traditional religious epic feel, indeed when the “Resurrection” theme from The Passion seems to be stripped down to something a bit more basic and elemental (which makes sense, really).  “Jesus Heals Cleopus” is fantastic, “A Son Named Jesus” simply sublime.  I think it’s fair to say that anyone who enjoyed The Passion will also enjoy this, but I’d be surprised if many people enjoy it nearly so much, because it’s based on a smaller set of ideas which are stretched a lot thinner.

Rating: ***

Also see: The Passion of the Christ John Debney (2004) | |

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  1. tiago (Reply) on Monday 28 March, 2016 at 02:13

    Indeed a minor work from Debney (although I liked it most than Soraya M.), but the final two tracks are pretty excellent, and extremely moving.

  2. André, Cape Town. (Reply) on Monday 28 March, 2016 at 10:16

    With South Africa’s fiscal approaching ‘Junk Status’ and our exchange rate a terrifying nightmare, I now only order a score-CD after seeing the movie, or hearing extracts on You Tube or sample tracks. So, I sat through the ‘Young Messiah’, wishing that Cecil B. DeMille were still alive, directing Biblical themed movies > his credo: “Don’t depict life as it is, but as it should be” — so, his ‘Samson & Delilah’ and ‘The Ten Commandments’ were visual delights with beautiful people posturing as seductresses, prophets, pharaohs and slaves…all to the memorable music of VICTOR YOUNG and ELMER BERNSTEIN. The ‘Young Messiah’s’ sets for the Hebrews are drab, dreary edifices, while the cast include the ugliest actors I’ve ever had to endure for almost 2 hours – except for the baddies, Herod the Younger and Satan (in human form). And the music sounded as if 3 composers were involved– there were ethnic-enhanced orchestral themes that were lovely…then these themes would be resurrected with modern percussion – rather distracting [has DEBNEY never heard what ALFRED NEWMAN and MIKLOS ROZSA accomplished with exotic percussion to conjure up the Middle-East?]… then, horrors, ZIMMER/JABLONSKY inspired music for ‘action’ scenes. Yes, I will order the Score- for the ORCHESTRAL music that does invoke a sense of spiritual beauty. ‘RISEN’, another Biblical themed movie is on circuit– about a Roman Tribune who has to investigate the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb. A friend saw it, and recommended ROQUE BANOS’ score, although he wished for a Hollywood Dream Factory glamour treatment of sets and cast instead of the ugliness that permeated everything…REALITY, as Hollywood always maintained, is so boring! I’m looking forward to your review James, of the BANOS score when it’s, hopefully, released.

  3. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 28 March, 2016 at 11:51

    Yes, God forbid (pun intended) we ever hire anyone to appear in a film who isn’t a perfect 10. :/

  4. André, Cape Town. (Reply) on Tuesday 29 March, 2016 at 15:06

    Nonsense Edmund – the God of Diversity has inspired Cinéma Vérité and British Kitchen Sink dramas for YOUR enjoyment… I’ll continue wallowimg in Hollywood’s idyllic Dream Factory. I look forward to your critique/comments for ‘The Young Messiah’.

  5. Timothy (Reply) on Thursday 14 April, 2016 at 17:10

    If you never have, I’d highly recommend checking out Debney’s score for the video game Lair. It was a fairly mediocre game that didn’t do too well, but the soundtrack is another story. It’s John Debney at his most epic. Very different from his usual.