After his success as one of the main composers on George Lucas' Young Indiana Jones television series, Joel McNeely scored his first feature film and what an impressive and exciting debut it is. In fact, the only thing wrong with is it that much is all too obviously modelled on John Williams' classic action scores, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Last Crusade and Hook are all either quoted or alluded to. This is a shame as McNeely's own music is delightful and on its own. The main title is very much like the opening scherzo from The Last Crusade that bubbles along quite nicely and introduces the lovely, sweeping main theme. It is a very malleable theme that can either give epic sweep over the music or bounce along jauntily to provide great kinetic energy to the action. The Race Begins is a superb example of this and actually makes for a joyous little cue of its own with a proper and rousing ending.
There are, of course, some more serious action set pieces such as Devil's Slide which is rhythmic and driving and perhaps the only downside to it is the blatant borrowing of the Nazi theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not only does it sound a little out of place (and out of context) but there doesn't seem to be any need for it as McNeely's own music is good enough on its own. The Final Day puts the main theme through a more intimate sweep, but builds into a more spacious version with brassy fanfares. In fact, brassy fanfares seem to be the order of the day and actually occur quite often, but with thrilling effect. No more than in the thrilling, although maybe slightly overblown, but always entertaining finale. The brass heralding the success of the participants in the sled race ornaments the main theme superbly.
The end credits reprise the main theme as well as the scherzo to bring the score to another close (it sounds as though it should finish after Crossing the Line!). Joel McNeely appears to have successfully taken over the mantle of John Williams' classic action style and produce some very entertaining work (not to mention his superb re-recordings) and he promises to be a big name in the future of film music. Recommended to all who enjoy stylish as well as bright and breezy music.