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Doyle buckles his swash and shows what he can do
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2003 New Line Records; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
A peculiar film about a young boy whose uncles regale him with tall tales (vividly played-out on screen), Secondhand Lions got surprisingly good reviews, particularly for its acting - from Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Hayley Joel Osment. It was the first - and so far, the last - major film from director Tim McCanlies, who was so enamoured by the film music of Patrick Doyle that he hired him well in advance of starting production on the movie and allowed him a full year to write and record his score.
Such a luxury is rare indeed for a 21st-century film composer, but Doyle relished the chance to flex his muscles and use the slightly peculiar nature of the film to allow him to show off a swashbuckling side he rarely gets chance to display. It's all embodied by the fine main theme which opens the album, which is a blustery, expansive piece which instantly goes down as one of Doyle's most memorable. He unleashes it with frequency through the score and its appearance is always welcome.
There's more besides - some slide guitars and banjos to reflect the two heroes' current location (the American Deep South), some African percussion and indiginous winds for the action in that locale - and occasionally (very occasionally) something a bit lighter, allowing composer, his Slovakian orchestra and you, the dear listener, to have a bit of a breather. On album, the score's biggest problem is the extremely bitty nature which comes as an inevitable result of there being a large number of very short cues - despite having such a long time to write the music, this means Doyle is never able to develop his material as much as would be desirable and so it never fully satisfies.
For every utterly fantastic piece like the opening title, or "Sheik Swordfight" (as exciting a piece as has ever come from this composer), or the delightfully whimiscal "Finding the Money", or the beautiful "She Was a Real Lion" (with vocals by Patrick Doyle Jr - and there's a hell of a coincidence if he is no relation), there's something else which seems to be completely disposable, which is such a pity because the basic core of material is so strong. All of this means that the album doesn't deliver quite the knockout punch it might if Doyle had been allowed slightly more breathing room to expand upon his ideas - it's still recommended since there is such good stuff to be found within - and the problem the score has in the film (it is ludicrously over-the-top) is probably a good asset for the album.