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Wonderful sense of fun runs straight through the best Zimmerworks animation score since Powell left
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Dreamworks Animation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
2007 has been a year which has, I'm sure, seen more negative reviews coming from my pen than any other, in terms of new film scores; with Goldsmith and Bernstein gone, Williams seemingly virtually retired, Barry and Jarre definitely retired and even Morricone limiting himself to considerably fewer assignments than ever before, I have on a personal level certainly felt the absence of new music from these composers who drew me into this world in the first place, and while talented composers are slowly rising up, Hollywood itself has changed so much in recent years in its attitude towards film music that it seems scores - at least for the big blockbusters - end up being disappointments more often than not.
In this context, I was not exactly full of hope for the music for Bee Movie, credited to Rupert Gregson-Williams but presumably shared out amongst the usual suspects - these Dreamworks animations are all scored by Hans Zimmer's posse, and since the days of John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams teaming up for Shrek and Antz and Chicken Run have been on a steadily downward-sloping curve, culminating in the truly dismal Madagascar. It is therefore with not only a good measure of surprise, but an equal one of delight, that I must report that this effort is probably the most entertaining brainless fun this side of Zimmer's own conclusion to the Pirates series (and significantly better than the Zimmer-credited Simpsons Movie score).
There's nothing wrong with a bit of brainless fun at times, especially when it's as infectious as this - winning melodies, orchestration which is as busy as, well, a bee, and a genuine sense of enthusiasm and excitement pervade the music throughout. "Honex" presents a lovely, old-fashioned theme for (synthless!) orchestra which is a delight; and "The Pollen Jocks" includes a heroic theme which sounds a bit like something Jerry Goldsmith might have written. "Ken" is a fun little Southern European ditty with a great sense of humour, the sort of light fare Morricone or Rota might have offered up in their prime.
The two songs do nothing to detract from the overall satisfaction the album brings and, while I know it's all pretty insignificant and certainly not as impressive in a technical sense as the year's standout animations core, Michael Giacchino's Ratatouille, this album ticks all the right boxes in terms of the enjoyment it can bring to the listener - particularly one who is a fan of Powell's music for animations, but more generally it should appeal to anyone who enjoys large-scale orchestral adventure scores. Perhaps it's true that this score earns four stars not as a direct result of its quality, but because it seems like some kind of shining oasis amongst the spartan offerings of the year as a whole, but while you might find many which are more intellectually stimulating, at a basic level you won't find too many more entertaining film score albums released this year.