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A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Season's greetings from Silvestri
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2009 Disney Enterprises, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
Robert Zemeckis's latest pointless motion-capture film is A Christmas Carol, the 949,335th big-screen adaptation of Charles Dickens's tale. The motion-capture works better for this film than the director's previous two - but is still pointless. Will he ever make a proper film again? No matter - at least it gave Alan Silvestri the chance to write another Christmassy score (after The Polar Express) and prove that his somewhat lacklustre output of the last couple of years has just been a temporary blip.
Indeed, I wondered when I heard GI Joe whether he'd just given up completely - I hate the term "phoned in", but that didn't stop me thinking it. Fortunately A Christmas Carol suggests that whatever he may have lost, he has found again. It's a delightful score to add to the roster of Christmas favourites. For starters there's the main theme which - like all good main themes from Christmas-themed films - sounds like it could be a well-known carol, but is actually original. Catchy, memorable, injected with just the right dose of seasonal good cheer, it's a great theme.
There's more than a smattering of the great carols interpolated from time to time in Silvestri's score - including "Deck the Halls", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and the one I sing in the shower every day during December "Good King Wenceslas". Sometimes orchestral, sometimes choral, they get some terrific arrangements and performances - not to mention some rather surprising ones. I didn't think I'd ever come to the day when the main melody from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman" is used as an action motif, but that day has come - and it works surprisingly well!
Speaking of the action music, there is no shortage of it here. There are some scenes in the film which would obviously be much too scary for younger children (which one might have thought would be the target demographic of a Disney animated telling of this tale) and they have music to match - there's a gothic horror element at times, which works really well (check out the spooky choir in "The Clock Tower" or the choppy Herrmannesque strings of "The Ghost of Christmas Past"). Elsewhere, there's some fabulous orchestral action - "Carriage Chase" being a particularly energetic piece of melodic orchestral mayhem which I'm tempted to describe as a Silvestri classic.
The only real misfire is the song at the end, "God Bless Us Everyone". It's based on Silvestri's main theme - and so there's no problem with that - the problem comes with the bizarrely earnest performance from the usually-wonderful Andrea Bocelli, completely the wrong choice of performer. (The press release that goes with the album amusingly suggests that Bocelli personally sought out the filmmakers because he was so desperate to sing the song.) Otherwise this is a magical album (frustratingly available only as a download). Alan Silvestri's final score of the 2000s has turned out to be his best score of the 2000s.