Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius is in many way a return to the Horner scores of the 1990's. Sure, it's not that long ago, but Horner's style has evolved rather much since then. Bobby Jones has more in common with Braveheart, The Devil's Own and Deep Impact than with Horner's recent scores, such as The Missing and House of Sand and Fog. Especially Braveheart, which is a score Horner's Bobby Jones music draws a lot of ideas from. Not only the Celtic sound, with its large ensemble of Irish instruments - Uilleann pipes, bodhran drum, whistle and dulcimer, for example - but also when it comes to themes. Horner occasionally quotes the Sons of Scotland theme from Braveheart in his Bobby Jones score - but more about that later. And the Braveheart-ish strings and French horn solos appear several times.
But Bobby Jones is actually a rather original score, although brimful with Horner's typical sound. It is in many ways Horner on autopilot, but the composer luckily avoids many of his most overused trademarks, such as the four note danger motif and the bad habit to accentuate the end of every phrase with a low rumbling chord. Thank God.
The Celtic elements work pretty well, sometimes visiting Braveheart territory ("St. Andrews" and "Not Just a Game Anymore"), but also revisiting the more upbeat music heard in the composer's score for The Devil's Own ("Destined for Greatness" and "A Win, Finally").
The thematic material is a bit uneven. What I suppose is the score's love theme is the most memorable one and is allowed to shine in "Not Just a Game Anymore", which is one of the best tracks this soundtrack has to offer. Rather reminiscent of "The Princess Pleads for Wallace's Life" from Braveheart, this is an absolutely lovely rendition of the theme, performed by whistle and strings, backed up by woodwinds and harp. Very beautiful in its simplicity. Another memorable appearance occurs in the "End Credits" track, where it is performed by acoustic guitar, supported by soft strings. I'm a sucker for Horner's love themes, and although this one perhaps isn't one of Horner's best it's still really good. The main theme is also pretty decent and shows up in many different settings and versions throughout the score. And then there's the Braveheart theme. Although it's not note for note, it's darn close and it's just impossible to not think about Braveheart whenever it appears. Annoying.
Anoter annoying element is Horner's tendency to build and build towards a climax that, for some reason, never comes. When I sit through several minutes of building, climbing strings I expect some kind of "reward" towards the end. In Bobby Jones this reward has a tendency to be... silence. I can almost picture Horner giggling while writing it. "Fooled you! Ha!"
But apart from that, Bobby Jones is a decent score, with a couple of really good moments. This is in many ways what Horner does best, i.e. scores for movies focusing on characters instead of explosions. And Horner skillfully walks the tightrope between beauty and sentimental sugar. Don't expect any huge orchestral statements, because there really aren't any in Bobby Jones. What you get instead is a warm and sometimes very optimistic and playful score, with small elements of tension.