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