Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quick Review: Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Music composed by Danny Elfman
Conducted by: Rick Wentworth
Orchestrated by: Steve Bartek, Edgardo Simone, David Slonaker,  John Ashton Thomas, Timothy Rodier, Edward Trybek, Peter Bateman
Additional music and arrangements by Paul Mounsey, Chris Bacon, Peter Bateman, John Ashton Thomas
Score Recorded at AIR Studios, London
Album time: 50 minutes
Available on Relativity

Still relatively new to the animated film scene, Danny Elfman has worked with Disney (The Nightmare Before Christmas), Blue Sky (Epic) and now DreamWorks (Mr. Peabody & Sherman).  John Powell might be the only other composer who has worked with those 3 animation companies.  And that's actually what this score sounds like: a bit of Elfman and a bit of Powell in a blender.

With that said, here's the rundown of the album.  

With a flurry, the upbeat main theme begins in Mr. Peabody’s Prologue.  Moments appear between instruments, showing off a piano and saxophone motif (very Pee-Wee's Big Adventure).  There are plenty of Elfman-y happenings throughout the score, especially the beginning.  We get hints of a harpsichord and brass fanfares, before a reference to La Marseillaise (France's national anthem) as they travel to their first destination.  Reign of Terror! finds our characters in a tough spot, with the suspense clearly in the music, alongside the heroic Marseillaise making an appearance.  His trademark wordless choir appears, with busy writing and triumphant statements of the main theme.

The Drop Off is a sweet track, featuring the main theme before the piano and saxophone motif.  The Dog Whistle and The Cherry Tree are short cues, with a little bit of cartoony qualities.  A Deep Regard is a tender moment with the secondary/sentimental theme.  Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) is the John Lennon song, which is fine since there aren't 2 separate score and song albums.

Dinner Party is more hurried music, a mix of fanfares and flourishes.  The Petersons/The Wabac Machine, begin with some drama, before some cartoony moments.  The main theme makes an appearance as well as standard Elfman elements.  The track goes right into Aquarela do Brasil, an arrangement of the Brazillian samba heard just about everywhere.

Off To Egypt changes the style of the music - shaped by the flavor of location.  The main theme appears with some dramatic flare.  The Wedding Exodus begins with an old-Hollywood (think Ben-Hur) fanfare as well as an Egyptian-style variation of the main theme.  Hammer-Time has a bunch of cartoony moments, very Carl Stalling.  The Flying Machine features the secondary theme, heard earlier in A Deep Regard.  The music turns from sentimental to frenzied with the main theme and choir making an appearance with this flying sequence.  The main theme bounces around a few times before the finish.  Trojan Horse begins with the secondary theme, before getting busier and building up.  There is a burst of Latin choir (inspired perhaps by John Williams' Call of the Champions?) before leading into a march and sneaking music.  The secondary theme gets another reference at the end.

War/Disaster kicks up the action, with some heroic horn blasts, fanfares and great statements of the main theme.  The music from here on in the album really picks up, really showing Elfman's strengths.  A solo piano takes over with the sentimental theme before picking back up.  History Mash-Up is the highlight of the album (and probably score).  Beginning with some drama, it morphs from genre and style to another: twangy and mandolin, La Marseillaise, and Egyptian fanfares.  A charging variation of the main theme enters, as well as a harpsichord La Marseillaise, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, a French waltz, and some booming low brass.  

I'm A Dog Too is more of the sentimental theme, including some solo piano.  The music builds with the brass and snare drum, with the choir coming into the front later.  Fixing the Rip leads back to action music, with some moments sounding like Elfman's older style.  The sentimental theme becomes charged to a great finish.  Back to School brings us back to the piano and saxophone motif which builds to a grand finale.  

Aquarela do Brasil (Coda) is another fun arrangement of the popular tune, with bits of La Marseillaise and Here Comes the Bride.  The Amazing Mr. Peabody is a semi-scene with Stephen Colbert shouting out instruments for Peabody to play.  Finishing off the album is the skippable song Way Back When from the band Grizfolk.

Elfman's further foray into animation really suits him nicely.  The score is lively with some great melodies.  The score doesn't stay too long in one area, not letting it too much Mickey-Mousing.  The themes work in the many settings and arrangements throughout the score.  The main theme is one of the hummable theme (and in a major key) from Elfman's recent output, and the secondary sentimental theme is sweet and also pretty flexible through the score.  While they both make many appearances, they don't seem repetitive and the album doesn't overstay its welcome with its length.  Overall, a fun score matching the film's fun and humor.

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