Muppets + Hans Zimmer + Buckled Swash = Fun, memorable pirate score.
It's surprising how Media Ventures composers often come up trumps when set the task of scoring for family films; the studio's patented in house sound usually tempered and the results generally more tuneful. Of course, it was head honcho Hans Zimmer who started the trend with his Oscar winning Lion King. The score for Muppet Treasure Island is Cutthroat Island or Erich Wolfgang Korngold meets the Zimmer sound and opens with a dark, swirling nautical figure that leads into the grimly determined opening song, Shiver My Timbers. Considering it is a Muppet movie, it only descends into cartoon music on couple of occasions, leaving the songs to contribute the comedy and the score to underpin the drama and action. There is plenty of genuine tension with the spooky music for Long John Silver and typically rip-roaring action music that retains the distinct Zimmer sound, but with memorable tunes and liberal doses of nautical adventure.
The songs are variably silly or odd, and only occasionally sentimental, but anything less in a Muppet movie would be a disappointment. There are some great numbers for the pirates, the aforementioned Shiver My Timbers and the eminently silly, but hugely enjoyable, A Professional Pirate. Cabin Fever is a funky calypso number, with a great tune and self mocking lyrics. The more serious minded will be appalled, but if you buy into the Muppet sense of humour, it's a gem. Boom Shakalaka is a curious chant that just builds to a thunderous climax, repeating the title over and over. Love Lead Us Here could be deemed the obligatory love song, but is more of an ironic piss-take. After all, it is sung by Kermit and Ms Piggy (who else?!). About the only maudlin moments are during the yearning, Something Better, as performed by Dave Goelz as Jim. His voice is a little thin and sweet, but his Muppet sidekicks - Gonzo the Great and Rizzo the Rat - cut through the treacle with some pleasingly silly interjections.
The album concludes with the distinctly ordinary ballad, Love Power and a pop version of Love Led Us Here, which is curiously unconvincing when not sung by pig and frog. The score runs to around half the album's running time, but anything more and it would outstay its welcome. The selection covers all the dramatic bases from determined, light hearted and energetic, notably during the relentlessly enjoyable action blowout, Rescue, while Honest Brave and True marks a more subdued finale. If you like your Media Ventures scores in small doses, Muppet Treasure Island is probably a good one to pick as it largely avoids the relentless, brain deadening excess of the 'adult' action scores and adds plenty of wit and good tunes to an entertaining mixture. Zimmer's music doesn't quite reach the operatic heights of The Lion King or his more recent scores for animation, but a worth predecessor to the likes of Chicken Run and Shrek by Messrs. Powell and Gregson-Williams.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
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