I think the idea of Basil Poledouris doing a sporting hero film is just about as unlikely as Jerry Goldsmith or Randy Newman, but both of these composers turned out enjoyable and quite well known results in the form of Rudy and The Natural. Perhaps Basil's only precedent is his marvellous synth score Wind, indeed the opening track hints at that superb effort. The Main Theme is a mixture of orchestra and synths that fuse extremely well to produce a hopeful and slightly ra-ra sporting anthem as is a requirement in all American sporting movies. The other requirement is to have a montage sequence of either the life of the sportsperson in question or of them doing some training or having a winning streak and this is provided in the Relationship Montage, kind of a soft rock, guitar based effort which doesn't realy go anywhere fast, but sounds like, well, upbeat montage music.
Electric guitars appear quite often in the score, in a kind of bluegrass/rock/Midnight Run kind of way in cues such as Tuttle Knockdown which is not a great deal more than a few riffs strung together over the percussion. American sporting movies must also contain some more touching moments - failure seems inevitable, the will to win is taking a toll on family life and relationships and so there is a touching period of self assesment of 'what is important in my life' whatever the sport may be; baseball in this case - I don't understand it, do you? - non Americans only. This is duly provided in some touching string and woodwind music in Jane's Home and makes up quite a bit of the central section of the album. For this reason, the middle tends to drag a little; a series of meandering sections of underscore do not really a great album make, pleasant though they often are.
The most important sports movie ingredient is of course the payoff (or perhaps playoff) when said sport start comes through at the last minute and they win the game to win the league, blah, blah and this moment is marked with a monumental orchestral cue that gushes with American pride and will likely get used during the next Superbowl or World Series (which is curiously lacking in enough countries to constitute a series for the World to compete in). Basil does not disappoint with his fanfares and flourishes ending in Last Pitch which even includes a Biblical Epic style chorus and pretty much eclipses what has gone before and provides a superby rousing end to a mixed bag of a score.
While not terribly original, the opening cue is certainly a lot more promising than the end result. The mixture of rock guitar, sentimental orchestra and then crowd pleasing orchestral blowout doesn't settle side by side terribly well. Even if it did, no one section has sufficient impact to stand out from the rest with the end result being the feeling that the score might work fine onscreen but not so well on disc. While it might have come out as even more conventional, perhaps sticking to the Wind formula of synths and occasional orchestra might have provided a score that lived up to the opening. As I seem to be commenting more than I'd like to, there are only so many ways to score a particular type of film, but in this case almost all of the precendents (as well as the above mentioned, Horner's exquisite Field of Dreams and Bernstein's derivative by hugely entertaining score to The Babe) are better. By no means a total wash out, but there are much better Poledouris scores about, in particular Wind which is just about the best synth score I've ever heard.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad