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Formulaic sports score tries hard, but doesn't quite deliver the goods

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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall

This remake of a 1993 tv movie sees a group of youngsters in a juvenile detention camp put together to form an American Football team, and of course along the way learn about the ways of the world and the importance of working together and regularly writing to your mother.  It didn't particularly appeal to me anyway (though sports movies are usually enjoyable popcorn entertainment), but the fact that the first actor in the credits is a gentleman called The Rock and the second is a gentleman called Xzbit (sounds more like a kids' breakfast cereal) does little to endear it to me any more.  It's done quite well at the box office though, and was one of three films scored by Trevor Rabin which all appear in the Box Office Top Ten in the same week, at the time of writing this review - quite a feat for the composer.

Rabin has become quite a specialist at sports movies, having also done Remember the Titans (his best score), Coach Carter and Glory Road.  It's not hard to imagine why he is so popular with directors in the genre, his power anthems and pop-style approach being pretty much spot on for this type of thing.  It's little surprise how Gridiron Gang sounds, either, with a big theme pounded out by orchestra augmented by plentiful synths, and softer Thomas Newman-ish piano music (a style previously heard in Rabin's National Treasure) for the inevitable tender moments.

This is a somewhat monothematic score, and of course what sorts out the men from the boys when it comes to monothematic scores isn't just the quality of that theme, but also what the composer does with it, how he manipulates it and presents it in different ways over the course of his music, taking the piece on a journey from one place to another... sadly Gridiron Gang's main theme isn't particularly strong or memorable in the first place, and Rabin basically just repeats it over and over.  It's one of those pieces which, if you were ticking off the boxes on a piece of paper, would get a high score - the powerful intent, the rock-style orchestration, the big tune - but it never really sounds like it's firing on all cylinders, is never memorable enough to work on the album.  And, spread over 55 minutes, there's just not enough going on.  The big pieces - primarily the three tracks called "We're Better Than This" - are the predictably inspirational stuff, but they aren't as good as similar things Rabin has done in the past, and surprisingly the score's finest moments come when the composer keeps things down to a simple level and attempts the more touching music, with the lovely piano music.

People who love Rabin's film scores will probably love this one too, but those slightly less convinced by the composer overall are unlikely to find this one nearly so impressive as his career highlights.  There's a reasonable base of material, but 55 minutes is far too long to present it in its best light, and it's a pity that this film - one which seems most unlikely to have a lengthy soundtrack made up exclusively of original score - is the one whose music has been released, when the infinitely-superior Remember the Titans score is unreleased.


  1. Camp Kilpatrick (5:29)
  2. We're Better Than This (1:27)
  3. Sorry, Football is Over (3:39)
  4. Roger's Dead (1:33)
  5. A Baddington Game (1:33)
  6. Training Day (3:04)
  7. Rap Up (3:23)
  8. Flowers (2:42)
  9. Letter Writing Montage (1:18)
  10. Good Job (:43)
  11. Junior (1:36)
  12. Celebration Epilogue (3:48)
  13. We're Better Than This (Part 2) (5:27)
  14. Calvin Gets Shot (3:21)
  15. We're Better Than This (Part 3) (6:13)
  16. Forgiveness (3:12)
  17. Junior Returns (2:24)
  18. Mustang Challenge (3:26)