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Surprisingly downbeat sports movie score never really gets going
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
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Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Picturehouse Entertainment; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Gracie is about a young girl who wants to play football at school, but isn't allowed to because it's only for boys. Well, more or less. I haven't seen it, but would say there is a fair chance that she defies the odds and ends up not only getting the chance to play, but being better than everyone else. Composer Mark Isham has been going through a remarkable purple patch of late, with oustanding scores coming one after another - whether for adult drama (Crash, The Black Dahlia), family adventure (Racing Stripes, Eight Below) or action thriller (Next). Given the strength of those family scores I mentioned, I was looking forward to another winner from Isham - but the run had to end some time, and unfortunately it seems to be with this.
The first thing to note is that the music is probably nothing like you would expect it to be, if you'd never seen the film - there's no inspirational, Bill Conti-style sports music here, it's all very low-key and subdued dramatic writing. In itself that's fine - the disappointment that this isn't another Eight Below aside, that's no reason to pass poor judgement onto the score - it would be a surprise if it didn't fit the film like a glove, given the composer's past credentials. However, judging it on its own merits is clearly perfectly acceptable, and sadly even then it falls short.
It's essentially all based around a single theme, a minor-key piece for piano and strings which is simply not very interesting - Isham's done it before, successfully, but it somehow seems a little hollow this time. Indeed, it is not until a secondary theme is introduced in the charming (but very brief) "Let Me Help You" that the music becomes particularly engaging at all. At least, one might think when looking at the tracklist, there is a nine-minute finale - surely that's when Isham will let it all loose and we'll get the kind of cheesy, but enjoyable, music one tends to expect for this sort of film - but even that seems remarkably subdued, very much staying within itself. The first time the music takes on a slightly more urgent feel is "First Two Cuts", the 13th of 17 tracks, but the synth stuff doesn't quite catch fire the way it might.
I suspect that the scenes in the film which would typically get the "big" music are probably laced with songs - a separate, song compilation was released proclaiming to be the soundtrack album - leaving the composer to just fill in the gaps. Some parts of it are really very lovely, but it never seems to pick up any real momentum, and so must be ranked as a disappointment.