Visit the Movie Wave Store | Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer
Warm, spirited score for family drama
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A children's favourite since it was first published in the 1950s, EB White's book Charlotte's Web receives the Hollywood treatment, with the story of talking animals à la Babe (voiced by such luminaries as Julia Roberts and Robert Redford) and an amiable little girl (played by Dakota Fanning) and all their adventures together. Director Gary Winick enticed Danny Elfman to provide the score for the amiable fairytale - quite a delicious prospect given the composer's track record with such films.
Surprisingly, the album's opening is somewhat forgettable, with a vague sense of going through the motions permeating the first three cues, the brief opening of "Lullaby" excepted ("Escape" in particular seems like a pale retread of Scissorhands) but in "Introducing Charlotte" Elfman begins to weave (ha!) his magic in glorious style, with the piano and plucked strings providing just the right flavour for his delightful theme. The playful, mischeivous air is brilliantly done, and makes it the score's standout piece.
The swirling flute of "The Plan Begins" once again highlights mischief, this time accompanied by a trademark Elfman choir - it's wonderful music, reminding the listener of a time when Elfman did this kind of melodic charm quite frequently. What he does so well is add in that touch of darkness and mystery, which sets it way above most of the saccharine music films like this tend to receive. Combined with his wicked sense of humour, and mastery of the orchestra, it's a delicious recipe indeed.
To some pieces (eg "The Word Spreads") Elfman adds a kind of bucolic charm through guitars and folksy percussion, with these injections of pace ensuring a lively variety to the album. Even when mickey mousing ("The Dump"), Elfman keeps the music classy and charming, never falling into the pitfalls which sometimes trap composers of such pieces. Indeed, the music is so much fun one almost wishes there were more of that kind of zany material on the album.
The finale, the nine-minute "Wilbur's Homecoming", while not quite reaching the ecstatic levels Elfman found in the past, is still a very impressive piece of warm, rich and rewarding music. After that there's a pleasant new song from Sarah McLachlan, "Ordinary Miracle". Charlotte's Web is a very pleasant score which is very easy to listen to - I'm not sure it hits the heights of the scores from earlier in Elfman's career which it resembles, but equally I doubt there would be another composer out there who could write music which is so sweet and yet so free of saccharine. It's just lovely music.