Home > Reviews > MICKEY BLUE EYES – Basil Poledouris and Wolfgang Hammerschmid

MICKEY BLUE EYES – Basil Poledouris and Wolfgang Hammerschmid

mickeyblueeyesOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

After almost a year’s respite from the pressures of the film scoring circuit, Basil Poledouris returns to the fray with Mickey Blue Eyes, the second of 1999’s two Mafia comedy films. Since Nino Rota’s legendary mobster music for The Godfather way back in 1972, the mobster movie has developed its own musical standard, typified by genre ballads by crooners Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. Whether it was an intentional homage to his contemporaries, or whether it was just a lack inspiration that led Poledouris down the well-trodden path is open to debate, but whatever the case may be it is certain that Mickey Blue Eyes is one of his weakest scores in many a year.

The film stars Hugh Grant as an English auctioneer in New York, whose proposal of marriage is turned down by his beautiful schoolteacher girlfriend Jeanne Tripplehorn. The reason? Tripplehorn’s father (James Caan) is the right hand man of the local Mafia don, and she does not want the love of her life getting involved in this type of family affairs. Never one to let little obstacles stand in the way of true love, Grant sets about ingratiating himself with Caan and the other mobsters – but ends up getting himself deeper and deeper into trouble. In truth, Mickey Blue Eyes is not a particularly good film, and ended up being eclipsed by the far superior Analyze This at the box office. Grant is floppy-haired and grins sheepishly, Tripplehorn is endearing to look at, and Caan seems to be trying far too hard to be funny, while director Kelly Makin seems a little out of her depth with this kind of cast and concept – especially considering that her only previous feature was the less-than-brilliant Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy.

The resulting album, from Milan, is for the most part a showcase for all the familiar crooned ballads that are constantly identified with this type of film, beginning with Rosemary Clooney’s manic rendition of ‘Mambo Italiano’, the song with which she will forever be associated. Dean Martin performs the classic ‘On An Evening In Roma’, Louis Prima belts out ‘Just A Gigolo’, ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody’ and ‘Buona Sera’, Clarence Frogman Henry ponders the meaning of life in ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You But I Do’ and the obviously insane Paolo Conte burbles and mumbles his way through the totally bizarre but insanely catchy ‘Come Di’. If you’ve heard these songs once, you’ve heard them a thousand times – but they all just happen to be on the same CD this time.

Considering that this is a film score from a composer of Basil Poledouris’s stature, it is a remarkably lightweight affair. If it wasn’t for the fact that the aforementioned songs pad out the album’s running time, this could well have been one of the least impressive scores in Poledouris’s illustrious career, which even now is represented only by a scant 8 minutes 24 seconds. Bouncy, mock-Sicilian tarantellas for oboe, viola and accordion abound, with cues such as ‘Truckers On Time’, ‘Gina Explains’ and the admittedly quite nice ‘Going To Gina’ adhering absolutely to every genre cliché. The 55-second ‘Ricochet’ is a brief action cue and ‘Johnny’s Funeral’ has a mournful trumpet lament, while the one and only romantic theme makes its presence felt in ‘Gina Runs From Ambulance’. This is the only score cue people recall after watching the film, and in the end it is the only one which plays at like anything the level of quality we are used to hearing from Basil.

The other score selections are the work of young German composer Wolfgang Hammerschmid and,  if the truth be told, his efforts are far superior to Basil’s on this occasion. Hammerschmid, who previously worked on European movies such as Night Train To Venice (which also starred Hugh Grant) and the acclaimed Czech drama Mandragora, seems to have been employed to write music for the entire final act at Hugh Grant and Jeanne Tripplehorn’s wedding – but whether this was a late replacement for Poledouris’s original efforts remains unknown. Whatever the behind the scenes politics may be, Hammerschmid’s five cues – ‘The Wedding’, ‘Death is OK By Me’, ‘Final Waltz’ and the bonus track ‘F****** Cookie’ – are undoubtedly the standouts in purely musical terms, employing sublime classical waltz textures, superb action writing and mock-Oriental melodies to great effect.

In summary, this is probably the ultimate in throwaway film music, which offers very little in innovative song choice or score excellence. Poledouris, returning from his 12-month sabbatical, is lukewarm at best, and unless you are also an ardent admirer of Louis Prima and his contemporaries, score fans will glean very little from the source music. The plus point? The introduction to the world at large of the music of Wolfgang Hammerschmid, who ends up being the only member of the scoring team to emerge in a generally positive light.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Mambo Italiano (written by Bob Merrill, performed by Rosemary Clooney) (2:31)
  • Luna Mezzo Mare (written by Paolo Citarella, performed by Frank Simms) (1:57)
  • Truckers On Time (0:46)
  • I Don’t Know Why I Love You But I Do (written by Paul Gayten and Robert Guidry, performed by Clarence ‘Frogman Henry) (2:19)
  • On An Evening In Roma (written by Umberto Bertini and Alessandro Taccani, performed by Dean Martin) (2:22)
  • Going To Gina (2:26)
  • Wedding Reception (1:33)
  • Violino Tzigano (written by Cesare Andrea Bixio and Bixio Cherubini, performed by Achille Togliani) (3:10)
  • Come Di (written and performed by Paolo Conte)
  • Ricochet (0:55)
  • Gina Runs From Ambulance (2:09)
  • Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody (written by Leonello Casucci and Irving Caesar/S. Williams and R. Graham, performed by Louis Prima) (4:42)
  • Johnny’s Funeral (1:08)
  • Your Picture (written by Robert Guidry, performed by Clarence ‘Frogman Henry) (2:47)
  • Death Is OK By Me (1:22)
  • Final Waltz (1:36)
  • Gina Explains (2:00)
  • Buona Sera (written by Carl Sigman and Peter DeRose, performed by Louis Prima) (2:57)
  • Bonus Track: F****** Cookie (1:29)

Running Time: 41 minutes 44 seconds

Milan 74321-69991-2 (1999)

Music composed by Basil Poledouris and Wolfgang Hammerschmid. Conducted by Basil Poledouris and Harry Rabinowitz. Orchestrations by Steven Scott Smalley, Simon Chamberlain and Geoff Alexander. Recorded and mixed by Geoff Foster, Tim Boyle and Dan Wallin. Edited by Curtis Roush and Dominic Gibbs. Mastered by Joe Gastwirt. Album produced by Basil Poledouris, Eric Colvin, Wolfgang Hammerschmid and Margot Core.

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