Home > Reviews > AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS – Trevor Jones

AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS – Trevor Jones

aroundtheworldin80daysOriginal Review by Peter Simons

Based on Jules Verne’s classic novel, Around The World In 80 Days is not quite the adventure film fans were hoping for. With Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan in the lead roles, the classic adventure with a touch of science fiction – at least, it was sci fi when Verne wrote it – has been reduced to a comedy; and not a very funny one. Coogan, a British comedian, stars as inventor Phileas Fogg who wages his life to prove he can travel around the globe in eighty days. Chan plays Fogg’s assistant Passepartout, who is on a mission of his own to return a sacred sculpture that was stolen from his hometown in China. Needless to say, the film’s plot serves merely as a vehicle for Chan’s martial arts choreography.

To film score fans around the world it seems that Trevor Jones is not nearly getting the high profile projects he deserves; and for which he has most certainly the talent. It seems all too rare that Jones is given the opportunity to flex his musical muscles; and even then only for flawed blockbusters. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is arguably one of the most exciting, all-out action scores in recent years, but with the film itself being a box office failure the score is also easily forgotten. With 80 Days history repeats itself as Jones wrote a wonderfully lush and varied score that is likely to be ignored because of the flawed film it accompanies.

Admittedly, it doesn’t help that Jones’s 80 Days suffers from one of the worst cases of ‘temp track love’ in recent memory. Your appreciation for this score will depend on your reaction to hearing the temp track shine through in Jones’s work; and subsequently of your opinion about Jones following that temp track so faithfully. Should the man be bashed for it? Or should he be praised for his efforts to adapt all these influences and incorporate them into what ultimately is a highly enjoyable work? While remarkably unoriginal from start to finish, technically 80 Days is as good as, or even better than any orchestral score out there.

The album kicks off with three songs ranging from bad to worse. David A. Stewart contributes ‘Everybody All Over the World’, an attempt at a world-uniting anthem. It’s a nice song, but if the chorus would indeed be inspirational enough then Stewart’s voice is simply too dull to lead the celebrations he’s singing about. What bothers me more though is that the song, with its children’s choir and verses in foreign languages, sounds too gimmicky for my taste. Tina Sugandh’s ‘River of Dreams’ may sound less like a deliberate money maker, its inclusion on the album however is more of a riddle as it seems to make little sense in context to the rest of the album. By far, and I do mean far, the worst track on this album is Baha Men’s reggae version of the Disney classic ‘It’s a Small World After All’. Words can not describe this abomination. So, let’s move on to the score then.

First up is a 5-minute overture presenting Jones’ main theme, which seems to owe quite a bit to James Newton Howard’s music for Disney’s animated films Dinosaur and Treasure Planet. Despite its similarities to other scores (do I hear a hint of John Williams’s Empire Of The Sun?) the track is every bit as exciting a these aforementioned soundtracks and equally cleverly written and orchestrated. The complex and detailed writing easily makes up for the obvious influences. At least – for now.

‘Jetpack Journey’ is a short but action packed cue, while ‘The Wager’ goes through various moods from heroic to mysterious. As the movie’s adventurers travel around the world, Jones accentuates their whereabouts by using instruments or melodies that are typical for the location. ‘Rendez-vous in Paris’ therefore contains a lyrical harmonica theme alongside some vivid action music. ‘The Balloon Chase’ is a fast-paced and brass-heavy track, while ‘1st Class Waltz’ is exactly what the title suggest: a lovely Viennese waltz for lush strings while woodwinds dance in the background.

Jones’s score tends to ‘mickey-mouse’ the action on screen and ‘Prince Hapi Escape’ is a good example of this as at least five different styles are merged into this three-minute cue. One of these styles is a poignant, classical-sounding brass motif. An other is a Pirates of the Caribbean rip off. ‘Agra to China’ is yet another busy adventure cue (well, which track isn’t) that kicks off as a variation on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade before turning into an exact copy of George Fenton’s Anna and the King replete with Asian instruments; and therefore equally attractive as Fenton’s score.

‘Return of the Jade Buddha’ and to some degree ‘Lost in America’ continue the influences from Anna and the King. The former of the two cues is an introspective one providing some much needed rest in this otherwise hyperactive score, while the latter goes through a series of wonderfully rousing Americana-clichés. During ‘Dismantling Carmen’ Jones employs a chanting choir to give the cue an even more epic feel than the Cutthroat Island-inspired brass alone already does.

Unwilling to let down the pace, the album’s finale track ‘Exactly Like My Dream’ starts with hectic orchestral writing with an emphasis on brass. Half way into the track however the brass finally calms down and Jones presents an absolutely stunning hymn for choir and strings which is practically worth the purchase of the cd alone!

Listening to Around The World In 80 Days evokes many different feelings. It’s hard to really love the score because of its many clearly audible influences. Yet, it’s even harder to hate the score because Jones’s writing is every bit as complex, beautiful or adventurous as the soundtracks it mimics. Inevitably the soundtrack doesn’t boast any particularly memorable themes, but it does show off some colorful orchestrations that give a handful of soloists a chance to shine. Serving as an excellent demonstration of the composer’s capabilities, 80 Days comes recommended with reservations.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Everybody All Over the World (written by David A. Stewart, performed by David A. Stewart and The Sylvia Young Theater School Choir) (3:13)
  • River of Dreams (performed by Tina Sugandh) (3:30)
  • It’s a Small World (written by Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman, performed by Baha Men) (2:44)
  • Around the World Overture (5:18)
  • Jetpack Journey (2:17)
  • The Wager (5:02)
  • Rendezvous in Paris (3:49)
  • The Balloon Chase (4:47)
  • 1st Class Waltz (2:06)
  • Prince Hapi Escape (3:08)
  • Agra to China (6:41)
  • Return of the Jade Buddha (3:38)
  • Lost in America (5:09)
  • Dismantling Carmen (1:44)
  • Exactly Like My Dream (4:45)

Running Time: 57 minutes 51 seconds

Walt Disney 861103 (2004)

Music composed by Trevor Jones. Conducted by Geoffrey Alexander. Performed by The London Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Geoffrey Alexander and Trevor Jones. Additional music by David A. Stewart. Featured musical soloists Will Gibson, Gareth Davies, Belinda Sykes, Mark Bousie, Paul Clarvis, Phill Todd and Trevor Jones. Recorded and mixed by Simon Rhodes. Album produced by Trevor Jones.

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