Another lavish Hallmark TV movie turned out as a delightful live action version of Lewis Carroll's famous book and featured all manner of famous stars from both America as well as this side of the Atlantic. The typically excellent production was accompanied by an especially delightful score that makes up for in charm and incident what it might lack in originality and cohesion. The somewhat dour and dreamy Prologue soon gives way to a tripping scherzo Main Title which appropriately sets the whimsical tone for the rest of the score. There are hints of Thomas Newman in the use of strings (most notably from Newman's Little Women), but little ideas from other composers appear from time to time. There are suggestions of anything from Horner's Casper to Williams' Hook, but these are usually short and don't detract a great deal.
Hartley's own musical personality is warm, occasionally balletic and only rarely does it resort to mere padding or simple orchestral overkill. In fact the lightness of touch is remarkable and only once in a while does the full orchestra take flight. There is much use of twinkling percussion, bouncing woodwind and swirling strings with brass only appearing for fleeting moments of heroism such as the striking Into the Book. This features an almost fanfare like adventure theme that comes as a bit of a surprise, but certainly a welcome one.
Even if the music isn't as superbly wrought or inspired, the approach to scoring is almost Herrmann-esque with little ideas that are taken up in each cue. There isn't a huge amount of track to track thematic consistancy, but with so many ideas and fragments of melodies flying about there is always something entertaining and somewhat different around the corner. Several tracks use parts of the few short songs. It is rather a shame that there are so few songs since they are all good fun and fit in nicely around the underscore. Sadly the entire thing wasn't conceived as a full blown musical, but in this instance I think it would have worked out wonderfully.
I suppose anything accompanying something with creations from Carroll's vivid imagination was always going to be pretty entertaining, but this is certainly a generally very entertaining album. Almost everything from comedy, action, adventure to mild horror are catered for. I suppose the huge variety and coupled with the large number of tracks means that it can tend to get a little fragmented, even if almost every fragment is well worth hearing. With perhaps great leverage for lengthier cues and slightly less adherance to the temp track, this might have turned into a more coherent work, however as it stands, it is a fine score and given a very generous release by Varese.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad