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EVAN ALMIGHTY – John Debney

Original Review by Clark Douglas

A kinder, tamer follow-up to the semi-controversial comedy “Bruce Almighty”, Tom Shadyac’s “Evan Almighty” takes one of the small supporting characters from the original film (played by Steve Carell) and turns him into the lead character. Morgan Freeman once again returns to play God, and the supporting cast includes John Goodman, Wanda Sykes and Lauren Graham. The film contains an even heavier spiritual element than the first, with God instructing Senator Evan Baxter to build an ark, for purposes that shall remain a secret.

John Debney scored “Bruce Almighty”, and turned in a fairly typical comedy effort that unfortunately failed to reflect much of the religious side of the film. His score for “Evan Almighty” couldn’t be more different, as he infuses almost every cue with heavy-handed religious grandeur, which will certainly make a lot of film score fans happy. Unfortunately, Debney seems to have fallen prey to one of his biggest weaknesses, too… following a temp track.

Though some may initially be awestruck by the sheer size and sweep of some of Debney’s cues, it soon becomes apparent that much of the music here is not his own. It’s hard for me to place everything, but there’s an overwhelming sense that we’ve heard it all before. Listen to “The Ark Theme”, and tell me you don’t hear something by Alan Silvestri – possibly a blown-up version of something from “Night at the Museum”? It’s an enjoyable piece, full of portentous glory, but distractingly unoriginal.

Debney also seems to have borrowed an awful lot from James Horner, particularly his score for “Apollo 13″. Though Debney nearly masks this in “God’s Theme” by including reverent solo gospel vocals, the strains of the strings still remind us too much of Tom Hanks in an astronaut suit. Temp-tracking is an inevitable requirement these days, but to temp-track God with a popular Horner score? Surely someone must draw a line somewhere. “Evan’s Theme” actually feels like it belongs to Debney, even if it also sounds like every other warm character theme you’ve ever heard. A touch of freshness is added by presenting it as a Michael Lang piano solo.

I suspect I’m being too hard on the score, but it’s just incredibly disappointing to hear such an incredible musical structure being spoiled by leftover themes. Thankfully, not all is lost… the best piece, and quite possibly the raison d’etre of this score album, is “The Flood”, a great big action piece that will surely be considered one of the year’s best cues by many. However, I’m afraid I must count myself out of that group… something about the cue seems to calculated, too predictable… the size and energy is there, but it just doesn’t excite me like it ought to, for one reason or another.

I don’t want to tell you not to buy the album, because in truth, it’s a fairly enjoyable listening experience. Much like last year’s “Dreamer”, this is a very pleasant film score that is riddled with temp track influences. If you’re okay with that (as I was on albums like “Dreamer” and “The Greatest Game Ever Played”), then by all means, the score is recommended. Otherwise, proceed with caution, as this externally stunning film score is internally void. The score is far more ambitious than many Debney comedy scores, which is great… but it only expands the level of disappointment about the lack of originality.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • The Ark Theme (1:44)
  • Baxter’s to Bed (1:22)
  • God’s Theme (3:11)
  • Grooming Montage (1:01)
  • Genesis 6:14 (5:20)
  • Evan’s Theme (2:03)
  • Evan Runs From the Capitol (1:26)
  • God’s Valley (2:02)
  • God Crane Arrives (1:06)
  • Congressional Animals (3:17)
  • I’m Noah (4:48)
  • Evan and God (2:18)
  • Hummer Ride (3:33)
  • Take It Down (4:02)
  • The Flood (6:56)
  • Acts of Random Kindness (4:48)

Running Time: 45 minutes 48 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-6825 (2007)

Music composed and conducted by John Debney. Orchestrations by Brad Dechter, Frank Bennett and Mike Watts. Recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy. Edited by Jeff Carson. Album produced by John Debney.

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