CHARLOTTE'S WEB (2006)
Music composed and produced by Danny Elfman.
18 Tracks (Playing Time = 47:20)
Executive Soundtrack Album Producers: Jordan Kerner, Julia Pistor, Gary Winick. Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, Edgardo Simone, David Slonaker, Marc Mann. Orchestra conducted by Pete Anthony. Choir conducted by Marc Mann. Recorded and Mixed by Dennis Sands. Score mixed at Eastwood Scoring Stage, Warner Bros Studios. Mix Recordist: Greg Dennen. Mix Technician: Ryan Robinson. CD editing and assembly" She Rozow. Recorded at the Newman Scoring Stage, Twentieth Century Fox Studios.Graphic Designer: Elisabeth Ladwig.
Sony Classical 88697-02989-2
Danny Elfman has become one of Hollywood's most successful film composers. It seems he is one of those composers most preferred by filmmakers, especially for fantasy films like Tim Burton's CHARLIE AND THE CHARLIE FACTORY, CORPSE BRIDE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Elfman has received three Oscar nominations so far -- for the delightful fantasy film BIG FISH (2003), plus GOOD WILL HUNTING and MEN IN BLACK (both released in 1997).
Keeping all that in mind, I found his latest score for CHARLOTTE'S WEB to be somewhat lacking in much freshness. It sounds too much like other such films and without much that is really very lasting.
Yet that doesn't mean it's bad. The opening Main Title (2:12) is delightful as in other Elfman scores, with a repeated staccato string figure which then expands into a more expansive theme.
But after listening to the other tracks, it seemed like the music was just chugging along with little of anything interesting to offer. Sure, it's very pleasant music. But there is nothing really to you fill up.
One example is "Lullaby/ Escape" (track 3, 4:05). It begins with Dakota Fanning singing a brief and barely audible lullaby written by Elfman that is nothing very memorable. Then the second cue "Escape" continues with this motivic idea but again with little worth remembering, although there is a nice snappy little piano and violins section. The next track, "Introducing Charlotte" (5:52), is probably one of the best cues on the soundtrack CD, with lovely flute and piano solos and supportive string accompaniment. Another highlight is the longest cue, "Wilbur's Homecoming" (track 17, 8:58).
There is also a new song by Glen Ballard (who was chosen for a Sammy Award in 2004 for his lyrics of the excellent song, "Believe" from POLAR EXPRESS), and also Dave Stewart. The song is "Ordinary Miracle" and is sung Sarah McLachlan, the multi-Grammy Award winner and founder of Lilith Fair. It's a good song which fits the film's story quite well. Fortunately the lyrics are printed in the CD booklet, which is a rarity in soundtrack albums these days.
The recorded sound is very good and the CD booklet looks very clean and well assembled. However, there are no comments from the director (Gary Winisk) or from Elfman about the score.
A few questions come to mind about soundtracks like these. Why are there so many involved in recording this music? There were two different scoring stages used and a whole bunch of technicians listed. But why aren't the orchestra musicians also listed? The musicians for the McLachlan song are given. So why not the orchestral musicians too? Don't they deserve some recognition for their playing?
So in the final analysis, this is a soundtrack worth having if you're a huge Elfman fan or want a souvenir of the music from the film, CHARLOTTE'S WEB.
--Roger Hall, 5 December 2006
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