Sunday, July 15, 2007

Simpson Tide

SoundtrackNet has posted an early review of Hans Zimmer's Simpsons Movie score. The reviewer says the score is one of the year's most enjoyable ones. Though I can't wait to hear Danny Elfman's opening theme reinterpreted by an orchestra much bigger than the one that performs the music on the show, it's a bit disappointing that TV show score veteran Alf Clausen, the series' clever musical director, got passed over for the Crimson Tide composer, whom producer James L. Brooks has relied on for his film projects. (Some of the fans are especially pissed.)

Maclean's staff writer and blogger Jaime J. Weinman wonders if there's any validity to the notion that a composer with more film experience like Zimmer is better suited for The Simpsons Movie than Clausen, who's worked more often for TV:
Is it right to assume that a feature film needs someone with "feature experience"? With movies based on TV shows, the truth may be the other way around. Sometimes movie composers can't match the style of the original series; the movie version of Mission: Impossible wrecked the famous theme song by arranging it in the wrong time signature. How Zimmer will do on the Simpsons movie remains to be seen, but his music may not sound Simpsons-esque, because Clausen's music has already defined what's right for the characters and the setting.

But The Simpsons Movie has a problem that most movies don't: its characters are in syndication several times a day. The use of a big-name movie composer may be a way of giving audiences something they can't get for free in syndication.
Weinman is referring to U2 members Larry Mullen and Adam Clayton and their much-maligned end credits version of Lalo Schifrin's Mission: Impossible theme in a 4/4 beat instead of Schifrin's original 5/4, not Danny Elfman's version of the theme, which was faithful to the original. Elfman's score is one of the best scores from a feature film based on a TV show because he paid tribute to Schifrin's jazzy music, which was like a sixth character on the old show (Elfman even brought back Schifrin's bongoes), and he did so without sacrificing his own style.

One fact about Zimmer that Weinman overlooked is that in 2000, Zimmer wrote the score to the extreme sports-ish sequel Mission: Impossible 2. Unlike Elfman, Zimmer mangled Schifrin's timeless theme in a nu metal version that's aged badly, one of the few missteps in Zimmer's career. I can't hear Zimmer's nu metal Mission: Impossible 2 theme without thinking of the "Extreme!" dorks from Harold & Kumar.

Zimmer may have wrecked the Mission: Impossible theme seven years ago, but I think it's unlikely that he's bungled this new assignment. Unlike all those Comic Book Guys out there who have already formed their opinions on the Simpsons fan forums without hearing a single note of the score, I'm a wait-and-see guy (or rather, wait-and-hear guy), so I'll say what I think of this score after I see the movie. The fact that Zimmer wrote a large-scale choral rendition of Homer's "Spider-Pig" theme may be a sign that he gets The Simpsons.

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