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ALIENS IN THE ATTIC
Frenetic, frustrating action score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
There are some films where you can probably determine everything you need to know just by hearing the title, and I suspect Aliens in the Attic is one. I'm unlikely to ever trouble my television by asking it to pixellate this one for me, but if it isn't about a bunch of kids who find some aliens in their attic then I would be somewhat surprised. Composer John Debney is no stranger to kids' adventure films and is on hand for the musical duties.
Since his excellent score for The Passion of the Christ, Debney has disappointingly returned to concentrate nearly all his efforts on madcap comedies - which rarely produce interesting scores - and while this may not be a terribly good film, it is at least the sort which can do that (witness his Zathura for a decent example). Sadly, the needs of the film - or the wishes of the director - or probably both - were such that this is one of those scores that flips and flaps about all over the place, running as quickly as possible from one idea to the next, never developing any of them.
The first two cues - "Opening" and "Main Title" - demonstrate this perfectly, moving in the space of five minutes from spooky 60s-style alien music (with the ondes martenot standing in for a theremin) to brief bursts of heroic-sounding action to instrumental pop. Debney does find time to quote from two different Danny Elfman scores (avoiding temp-tracks has never been something he has spent much time doing - and Mars Attacks! and Batman are those here) but that's the only thing you're likely to remember.
Forty minutes later, the album has ended, and the whole thing has been much the same. Twenty seconds of this, twenty seconds of that, it's very hard to listen to this. The main theme, which eventually becomes apparent through sheer repetition, is nicely-done - but never developed. Another assumption I have about the film is that the score fits it like a glove - Debney is a fine professional whose music almost always does that. Unfortuntely it's just one of those scores that doesn't work on album. From a technical point of view there's nothing wrong with it, and it's slickly orchestrated (by no fewer than ten credited orchestrators!) but this one was probably best left in the film.