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THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
Fairly generic, but fun, score from the Zimmer team; but where's Alf?
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Score composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
It seems a bit late to be releasing a Simpsons movie, with the show decidedly flagging as it enters its 460th season, but one has finally arrived and has been a success. The show has been one of the great pop culture phenomena of its day, outlasting virtually every other comedy show there has ever been and providing the western world with a huge variety of quotable material. Along for almost the whole time, devoting the last two decades of his career to the show, has been Alf Clausen, whose musical contribution to the show's success is simply immeasurable, with his witty scores propelling the show along all the way. It was only natural, therefore, that Clausen be given the chance to operate on the larger canvas when the show made the transition to the big screen.
Of course, he wasn't given that chance, in a huge slight by the filmmakers. Instead, James L. Brooks turned to the usual composer for his movies, Hans Zimmer, to assemble the usual vast team of people to write about four seconds of music each. The album credits suggest Zimmer was generous enough to write the themes himself before the team of seven composers and the same number of orchestrators actually assembled the score. While this is hardly a new thing for a score "composed" by Zimmer, it is notable here for perhaps the first time that this sounds nothing much like a Hans Zimmer score, with none of his usual trademarks (apart from a slight heavy-handedness) in evidence.
Of course, the album opens with Danny Elfman's indelible main theme for the show, with its rough edges smoothed out, but not enough to diminish its appeal. Zimmer's score goes through a variety of moods, as those for animated films often do, and surprisingly is at its finest in the more tender moments, particularly "Doomsday is Family Time", which is lovely. There's a witty piece of action music, "Release the Hounds", with a surfer feel, but the other action music sounds a lot more like what someone like John Debney would write - loud, orchestral, exciting in its way, but ultimately a bit too generic to leave enough of an impression. The pick is "Why Does Everything I Whip Leave Me?", which sounds like it could come from one of Bruce Broughton's comedy scores like Honey I Blew Up the Kid.
The moments when Elfman's theme is incorporated into the score work pretty well, but of course Zimmer is a composer who is as far to the other end of the film composer scale, stylistically speaking, as you could get from Elfman, so it's a shame Zimmer didn't manage to pen more a memorable theme of his own to use more frequently. There is one which crops up occasionally, a Goldsmith/Dante-type theme, but it's fairly basic stuff.
This is an enjoyable album - the music is certainly no better than that which appears in the show on a weekly basis, but neither is it particularly worse, but given it had the benefit of a lot more time and money one could reasonably have expected an improvement. Its lack of the Zimmer style is surprising - he is certainly one of the most distinctive film composers around - and this leaves it struggling to find an identity of its own at times. For all that, it remains good fun for most of its running time, and makes for a pretty enjoyable listen.