Saturday, January 3, 2015

Quick Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri

Music performed by Hollywood Studio Symphony
Orchestrated by Mark Graham
Score recorded at 20th Century Fox (Newman Scoring Stage)
Album time: 58 minutes
Available on Varese Sarabande


Our first Ben Stiller museum adventure started in New York in Night at the Museum (2006). His next adventure led him to Washington DC in Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) and now he's in England for his last with Secret of the Tomb (2014).

Along with the same main cast and director, this is composer Alan Silvestri's second complete trilogy in his film career, (the other being Back to the Future). That being said, there is a bit of thematic holdover between films: mainly the main title museum music, Larry's lighthearted theme, the tablet motif and the blend of comedic and action.
The album begins with The Ahkmnerah Expedition and a brief statement of the museum theme before setting the Egyptian locale (always nice to go back to The Mummy Returns style).  We get drama and mystery with the unveiling of the tablet before the speed picks up.  Performance Prep starts with a grand orchestral statement, before adding the twinkling sound of the mark tree.  Larry's playful theme heard in all the films appears as the tone shifts to something mysterious.  LOL contains the playful style with pizzicato and triangle in the forefront.  Suddenly, the music stops for a brief jungle interlude (complete with steel drums) before the original playful theme returns.  A bombastic fanfare interrupts this time and ends the track.


The Grand Re-Opening begins with the same theme as Performance Prep, and contains some sweeping moments and brass chorales.  The action quickly turns to playful chaos with a trumpet cavalry charge thrown in.  One of the highlights of the album.  "The End Will Come" has a gentle percussion beat with a rising string ostinato building to the end.  Sneak And Greet hits little comedic beats, punctuated by the Silvestri three note rising pattern (it's in almost every of his scores).  A little rising tag ends the cue.  


Sir Lancelot starts out with dissonance and some electronic effects mixed in.  The mood turns to the comedic playful tune from the first film before ratcheting up the action.  The low brass get some powerful moments, but it's great when it builds to action theme that can only be called Silvestri-esque.  Where Are Jed And Octavius? presents more British Museum drama, and includes a theme heard in the first film's great Stage Coach.  This track also sets up some more mystery before ending heroically.  

Main Hall starts with the Museum theme with lighter variations performed with celeste, harp and triangle.  There is a nice melodic section with cellos, slowly transforming back to a mysterious and dissonant atmosphere.  A Chinese-style flute and piano solo change the mood once again.  Xiangliu is a nice action set-piece for the new hydra-style creature.  The choir chanting enters, a mix of Mummy and Beowulf styles.  Silvestri certainly keeps the momentum and action moving throughout until a triumphant brass chorale ends the track.  Male Bonding builds to a shimmering reprise of the main theme, before reprising Larry's theme and the rising string ostinato.  

The Legend Of The Tablet sets up a tablet motif leading to a racing finish.  The Escher Fight starts slow before adding a drum loop and continues the action throughout.  Camelot starts like an action cue, shifting to moments of Larry's theme to bold brass statements.  The action picks up near the end with a strong brass phrase.  The Quest brings the choir back for a rousing and sweeping moment that ends too quickly.  

“Seeing Your Boy Become A Man” is a sentimental track, beginning with a piano solo and sweet string writing.  Laaa Love continues the same sweet territory as before, with some sections similar to his writing for the miniseries Cosmos.  A Farewell Kiss, similar to before, is led by a piano solo.  Teddy's Goodbye is a fitting farewell to the Museum trilogy characters, using Teddy's trumpet fanfare and a brief choir shine.  A reprise of the finale from the first film is extremely fitting.  The orchestra crescendos to a big finale but then quickly fades away.  Where a song or end credit suite would usually be on an album, this just ends abruptly.  

Of course the sad connection is the goodbye of Robin Williams, in one of his last film roles.  The music in the last few tracks are fitting without getting too sappy.  Each film in the trilogy has saved a bit of sentimentality for the finale, but this feels more poignant.  

Overall, Silvestri has maintained a nice balance of score for these films.  Falling into an odd genre of comedy, fantasy and action, Silvestri balances between each one.  All three albums have relatively short running times, however this one is the longest.  Seemingly stitched from many short cues, the flow of the music is very stop-and-go.  This is part of the balancing act of comedy versus action, but they've always had a jittery nature to them.  Even with that in mind, Silvestri has kept the "mickey-mousing" level fairly low and kept the music straight even with Dexter the Monkey's hi-jinks.  

There are few standout moments in the score (nothing like the fantastic Wright Brothers sequence of the 2nd film).  It's nice to see Silvestri returning to certain themes, without over-repetition or variation.  I can't imagine re-listening to the album straight threw very often, but picking certain highlights.  With the trilogy at an end, go ahead and make a playlist of the best cues of all three scores for a strong listening experience.

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