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Artwork copyright (c) 2003 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Jerry Goldsmith Back in Action


It's been a long wait since the last Jerry Goldsmith score - a year, in fact, since the underrated Star Trek Nemesis.  Finally the great composer is back, and it's for his tenth collaboration with Joe Dante, for whom he has written a whole host of madcap - and brilliant - scores, including the two Gremlins ones, The Burbs and Small Soldiers.  Dante seems such a wonderful choice to direct this combo animated/live-action Looney Tunes movie, though initial reviews of it are decidedly mixed.  Regardless of that, let's talk about the music.  Goldsmith has always been one of the least predictable film composers, but if there's one thing you can predict, it's how music needs to sound for Looney Tunes - Carl Stalling set the standard for cartoon music all those years ago and if anyone was going to be able to capture the spirit of Stalling's classic style while applying his own personality and writing a dramatic underscore at the same time, then surely that person was Goldsmith.

This is easily his busiest and most energetic score since The Mummy in 1999, though of course it's completely different in style.  Virtually all of his scores for Dante have an air of "everything but the kitchen sink" about them, and this one takes it a step further still, with all sorts of bells and whistles (literally) added to the orchestra.  Dante himself describes the music in his brief note in the CD booklet as "looney and tuneful", and that's a perfect description.

There is a theme that occurs a few times which binds the score together to an extent, though a film like this calls for a lot of short cues and so there's never going to be all that much coherence.  The theme is in a similar spirit to the classic theme from Gremlins, though it's never really fully developed, only ever stated as a short motif.  (Speaking of the Gremlins theme, it makes an amusing cameo in "Out of the Bag" - a film music in-joke - I like it.)  There are numerous other themes - at least a dozen - to score individual set-pieces.  The most striking is the western theme in "Car Trouble", four minutes of pure, unbridled Goldsmith magic and easily one of the best individual film music pieces of the year, with the driving horn theme with its acoustic guitar backing bringing back fond memories of Goldsmith's western scores of decades ago.  There are also other wonderful moments, like the beautifully-constructed, thrilling "Thin Air", the laid-back electric guitar-led atmosphere which permeates through the mad-cap orchestral pieces from time to time, the humorous jungle music for "The Jungle Scene", riotous action material for "Tasmanian Devil", the female vocal which sounds amusingly like a theremin in the Herrmann-parody "Area 52", the rock-and-roll of "We've Got Company".  As you can tell, this is a score which is most certainly not short of highlights.  It's remarkable how well Goldsmith has captured the essence of Stalling's style while writing entirely in his own.

A classic?  No, not really - it's too much a collection of set-pieces rather than a free-flowing score for that.  But nevertheless this is a very fine score and only Goldsmith could probably have pulled off something even this coherent for a film like this.  Unlike most "mickey-mouse" scores, it all remains so musical and well-composed, it's very difficult to dislike even a single moment of it.  (And - remarkably - it's not directly comparable with any of the composer's previous 200 scores - given that there are composers out there who've only written a dozen scores and yet repeat themselves ad nauseum, for a composer who's been around for almost 50 years it is something of an incredible feat to have found yet another style in which to excel.)  Those with any degree of fondness for Goldsmith's past scores for Dante will, I'm sure, love it and it's surely proof that there's life in the old chap yet.  It's the most energetic and most "fun" score of 2003 without question, a delightful collection of magical moments.  It's just so full of excitement and life.  Jerry Goldsmith certainly is back in action.

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  1. Life Story (:18)
  2. What's Up? (1:24)
  3. Another Take (:48)
  4. Dead Duck Walking (3:13)
  5. Out of the Bag (3:42)
  6. Blue Monkey (:54)
  7. In Style (1:09)
  8. The Bad Guys (2:57)
  9. Car Trouble (3:45)
  10. Thin Air (1:24)
  11. Area 52 (1:27)
  12. Hot Pursuit (2:26)
  13. We've Got Company (1:50)
  14. I'll Take That (1:29)
  15. Paris Street (1:21)
  16. Free Fall (1:15)
  17. Tasmanian Devil (1:10)
  18. Jungle Scene (1:40)
  19. Pressed Duck (3:22)
  20. Re-Assembled (:50)
  21. Merry Go Round Broke Down (:16)