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HORTON HEARS A WHO!
Fun album, but it's time for Powell to stretch himself a bit
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
Dr Seuss is apparently some sort of children's author, who is evidently more famous in other people's childhood households than he was in mine (A.A. Milne and Michael Bond being the authors of choice when I was a wee lad) and there have been numerous attempts to bring his books to the big screen, most seemingly not satisfying many people. Horton Hears a Who! is the latest, an animation from Twentieth Century Fox, with the voice cast led by Jim Carrey and Steve Carell. Reviews have been generally positive; and Fox Animation continues their productive relationship with composer John Powell, whose Robots and Ice Age 2 scores were both impressive (particularly the former).
Not long ago I reviewed Powell's music for Jumper and said there was a danger he was returning to the same bag of tricks too many times, and he was in need of some fresh ideas; it's a different bag of tricks he has for animations, but the same statement is still true. In a blind tasting of random tracks, would people really be able to pick them apart? Generally they're all highly-enjoyable albums, but Horton Hears a Who! is just another extension of exactly the same thing - and clearly that's what gets him hired on these films in the first place, but I hope he is able to find something new to inject before long (or, perhaps better still, leave the animated world behind for two or three years) lest it all becomes boring.
That hasn't quite happened yet, fortunately - there is such energy in this music, even if one has heard it all before, it's hard not to be taken in by it. There are a few separate themes here, but this sort of music isn't really about themes - it's all about the style, the infectious spirit, the joie de vivre - and it has plenty of that. It is rarely a promising sign when a 60-minute album has 34 tracks, but that's somewhat deceptive here because a lot of them play continuously, running into each other (which makes me wonder why they weren't just presented as single cues, but I guess it makes no real difference). For sure, it's manic, and can tend to go all over the place a little, but Powell just about manages to keep everything together so it doesn't have a bitty feel.
As I said earlier, you pretty much know how it's going to sound before you even take the CD out of the case, if you've ever heard any other scores for animations by this composer - bright, breezy, charming, very slick - and that's how it is. There are some great choral passages here which are perhaps the score's highlight - and some direct quotes from previous Powell scores (not to mention Randy Newman's Toy Story 2) which are the lowlight. What's in between is all good fun - possibly not quite fun enough to sustain attention for a full hour - and will please a lot of people. This comes recommended, then - but I hope next time round, Powell manages to do something a little different.