Film Music Review
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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





ZATHURA (2005)

Music composed, conducted, and produced by John Debney.

20 Tracks (Playing Time = 44:28)

Orchestrations by Brad Dechter, Frank Bennett, Mike Watts, Don Nemtiz, Andrew Kinney, Bill Boston, Bruce Babcock, and Kevin Kaska. Performed by the Page LA Studio Voices, and the Hollywood Studio Symphony. Score recorded and mixed by Bobby Fernandez. Recorded at the Newman Scoring Stage, 20 th Century Fox. Mastered by Pat Sullivan-Fourstar at Bernie Grundman..

Varese Sarabande 302 066 705 2

Rating: ***


Zathura comes from a Chris van Allsburg book and is a companion to his Jumanji which was released on film in 1995 with a score by James Horner. The film previews looked great but a Jumanji in space adventure just seemed like a copycat approach. Even with Jon Favreau’s continued ability to make great family pictures, it was not enough to pull audiences in for long. But it made for a great afternoon popcorn movie which is not always the case in children’s cinema. In Elf, Debney payed homage to those old Rankin-Bass Christmas classics. Here he manages to do the same for those 1970s science-fiction films while also punching things up a bit with just a small amount of electronic sound.

The “Main Titles” start off the disc with strong science fiction action music that is a throw back to kid matinee sounds and owes a lot to John Williams. The orchestration is one of the highlights of the score though some of the gentler touches are often buried. “Meteor Shower” has some subtle sounds that try to peak through toward the end of this energetic track. “Aftermath” is that appropriate sad-tinged and bittersweet music that perfectly matches the kind of adventure for kids that Zathura is intended to be. It helps that the primary thematic line is engaging because we get to hear it in a variety of guises. “Too Close to the Sun” makes use of many action gestures complete with wordless female chorus and some brass writing that is reminiscent of television’s Lost in Space. “Astronaut’s Story” makes for a delicate break from all the excitement scored for celesta and strings. The evil Zorgon’s get an easily identifiable march idea that appears to provide equal menace in select places when the characters are not dealing with the latest potential catastrophe. The longest track, “Stealing the Game,” is filled with appropriate danger music and lots of mickey-mousing potential on display. The hardest thing to do is bring all this energy back down to close of the adventure. The disc closes out with two subdued tracks that are essentially the same, “Back Home” and “Home Again,” which provide a nice contrast to all the action material but the result is that the disc just peters out. A good end title suite or revisit of the main theme would have really capped off an otherwise fine listening experience.

For the next generation of film fans, Zathura could be their guilty pleasure score. The music is as fun as Debney’s score Cats and Dogs and it has that kind of Mom and Dad Save the World quality, though it takes itself far more seriously. And, it maintains the energy of many similar adventure scores, featuring a great theme, and plenty of interesting musical effects along the way tied to fabulous imagery. The recording for this score is demonstration class with low tubas as crystal clear on the low end as strings are on the high end. The musicians are all in top form here which is no small feat with some of the extremely high and exposed string writing. The imaging is equally striking making for one of the best-recorded Varese score CDs in their catalogue.

--Steven A. Kennedy, 18 January 2006

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