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SURVIVING CHRISTMAS – Randy Edelman

October 22, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

survivingchristmasOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Containing what is surely one of the most ill-advised premises ever to drive a mainstream studio movie, Surviving Christmas is one those most unfortunate creations: a Ben Affleck comedy. Ben stars as Drew Latham, one of those fabulously wealthy advertising executives who only exists in the movies, who is facing the holiday season alone after being dumped by his girlfriend (Jennifer Morrison). Desperate for companionship, Drew decides to return to his childhood home: now the house of the Valco family – father Tom (James Gandolfini), mother Christine (Catherine O’Hara), son Brian (Josh Zuckerman), and daughter Alicia (Christina Applegate). Being one of those movie characters who is both amazingly rich and slightly mentally unbalanced, Drew does what any normal person would do and offers the Valcos $250,000 if they will “pretend” to be his family over the Christmas period. Hilarity, as they say, ensues – or in this case, not, as the film sank without a trace at the US Box Office.

The unenviable task of scoring Surviving Christmas went to Randy Edelman, who has had a comparatively quiet couple of years following the huge success of XXX in 2002 (this was the man who regularly scored five or six movies a year in the mid-90s). His score, as one would expect, is full of festive cheer and upbeat silliness: a generally enjoyable romp with just the right amount of warmth, nostalgia and seasonal orchestrations to ensure it stays *just* the right side of cloying sentimentality. Working with the Hollywood Studio Symphony (and, unusually, no electronic elements whatsoever), Edelman has crafted an unremarkable, but pleasant addition to the list of yuletide scores which includes Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, and this year’s Polar Express.

Like Silvestri did on Polar Express, Edelman has cleverly worked snippets from a number of Christmas carols and popular seasonal songs into his underscore – “Joy to the World” in “Airport Madness”, “Silent Night” in “Pop the Old Head”, hints of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” and “Carol of the Bells” in “Shopping Spree”, “Deck the Halls” and “O Tannenbaum” in “Two-Fifty Large”, “The First Noël” in “I Like It”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” in “Christmas Pageant”, and so on.

The rest of the score tends to be sweet and tender in nature, with soft strings, piano and woodwinds leading the way – the sense of warmth coming from tracks such as “House Arrival” “Telling a Story”, “By the Fireside”, “Loving You All Over” and others could melt a snowdrift at twenty paces. Other cues of note include the lounge jazz in “Kissed by a Snowflake” with its piano and stand-up bass; the jaunty caper music in “Airport Madness”; the faux-Italian mandolins in “Salami and Bagels”; the amusing tuba solo in “Pop the Old Head”; and the quite lovely finale, “Christmas Pageant”.

Rounding out the album are a number of genre standards and re-interpretations of Christmas classics, including Andy Williams’ “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, Judy Garland’s sincere rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Lou Rawls performing a funkadelic version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”, a remix of Bing Crosby’s “Happy Holidays”, and the irrepressible Jose Feliciano’s insanely catchy “Feliz Navidad”.

Ultimately, Surviving Christmas is lightweight, throwaway stuff – of absolutely no consequence in the bigger scheme of things, but which still provides 20-or-so minutes of undemanding underscore, and two or three cheerful songs which will surely get repeated play when the snow is falling, the decorations are going up, and the family awaits the arrival of Santa Claus.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (written by Edward Pola and George Wyle, performed by Andy Williams) (2:19)
  • Jingle Bell Rock (written by Joe Beal and Jim Booth, performed by Chet Atkins) (1:44)
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town (written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, performed by Lou Rawls) (2:56)
  • Feliz Navidad (written and performed by Jose Feliciano) (3:06)
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (written by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, performed by Judy Garland) (2:48)
  • Happy Holidays (Beef Wellington Remix) (written by Irving Berlin, performed by Bing Crosby) (3:16)
  • Kissed by a Snowflake (2:30)
  • House Arrival (0:58)
  • Airport Madness (1:46)
  • Telling a Story (1:26)
  • Salami and Bagels (1:05)
  • Pop the Old Head (1:12)
  • By the Fireside (1:19)
  • Shopping Spree (:48)
  • Ice Storm (1:06)
  • Loving You All Over (1:40)
  • Two-Fifty Large (0:40)
  • Toboggans and Helicopters (1:11)
  • I Like It (1:11)
  • A New Phone System (1:40)
  • Smelling Fear (1:03)
  • Christmas Pageant (2:11)

Running Time: 38 minutes 05 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6620 (2004)

Music composed and conducted by Randy Edelman. Orchestrations by Ralph Ferraro and Stuart Balcomb. Recorded and mixed by Elton Ahi. Edited by John Finklea, Lisa Jaime and Ben Schor. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by Randy Edelman.

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