Movie Wave Home | Reviews by Title | Reviews by Composer
Energetic, action-packed Silvestri score for Disney animation
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * *
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Disney Enterprises, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Since Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney to go and form DreamWorks with his buddies, the latter's animation studio has produced a couple of movies which are, shall we say, similar in concept to ones which were in development at Disney at the time Katzenberg was there. A remarkable coincidence, I'm sure. Unfortunately for Disney, DreamWorks tended to steal the march on them in terms of release dates (Antz before A Bug's Life, say); and now, a few months after Madagascar comes The Wild, basically about the same thing. To be honest, Madagascar was one of the most dispiriting motion picture experiences I've witnessed, full of lame pop culture references which are already out of date, unfunny jokes and horribly insipid music. Lady and the Tramp, it ain't.
If nothing else, The Wild can't possibly be as bad as Madagascar; and I'm pleased to report that musically it is infinitely superior. This album opens with a few disposable songs; looking at the tracklist before playing the album, I assumed that the only worthwhile one would be Eric Idle and John du Prez's "Really Nice Day", but that ends up being a completely forgettable bit of nothing, and the highlight of the songs is the fun "Big Time Boppin' (Go Man Go)" performed by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy - I'm not sure if that's his real name or not. The other two are disposable pop songs which exit the memory the second they finish.
After that short roster of songs comes about half an hour of original score by Alan Silvestri, scoring his second Disney animation after Lilo and Stitch (well, his third, if you count the rejected Tarzan) which is full of life and energy, reminding me very much of John Debney's terrific recent Chicken Little. The score begins with the vigorous "Tales from the Wild", with typically thunderous Silvestri action music. I don't always warm to Silvestri's style, but he has a truly distinctive musical voice and when he is writing in a more colourful way, as he does on these family scores in which he specialises, it is always worth hearing, and The Wild is no exception. This is almost like a toned-down version of Van Helsing or The Mummy Returns, and that is no bad thing.
Unlike those scores, it's not non-stop action, with the comic interludes being most welcome. Silvestri has often shown (in scores like Stuart Little or the excellent Mouse Hunt) that he is capable of writing straight-laced action music for kids' films in a particular way which is just right, and makes for endearing listening; this is another good example of that. This all continues along very nicely, but then the score's less satisfying aspects become apparent: first, it's unusual for a score such as this one to not have a strong main theme which bolsters it together, but that's the case here (there are a couple of sweeping melodies, but nothing that sticks in the mind), ultimately making it less satisfying that those other Silvestri scores I mentioned before; and second, midway through "To the Wild" the orchestra disappears and some (mostly synth) jungle percussion takes its place, not hanging around for long, but sadly these sudden changes in style become more frequent and, while they doubtless make perfect sense in the film, they make no musical sense at all and so some of the cues become rather irritating.
Overall, the good outweighs the bad, and Silvestri's style is so strong his fans will find much to enjoy. To be honest, 30 minutes of this sort of score is exactly right (any more and it would wear very thin indeed). There's some wonderfully colourful music here, some exciting action music, but while it is not likely to leave the listener with quite such a large headache as, say, Van Helsing, it is also not likely to leave him with a smile on his face quite so large as Mouse Hunt would.