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SPANGLISH – Hans Zimmer

December 17, 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

spanglishOriginal Review by Peter Simons

A comedy about the barrier of language, Spanglish is not exactly the most original movie out there. Newcomer Paz Vega stars a Flor, a Mexican immigrant who moves to America hoping to find a better future for herself and her daughter Christina (Victoria Luna). She finds a job as the personal housekeeper of the Clasky family (Tea Leoni and Adam Sandler). Of course, the fact that she doesn’t speak a word of English does complicate things a little. Directed by James L. Brooks who previously made As Good As It Gets and I’ll Do Anything among others, Spanglish was reasonably successful and showed the world that Adam Sandler is not that bad an actor if given half a chance.

Seemingly eager to get away from the action image he has built up over the years, composer Hans Zimmer seeks out the Spanglish-type movie to showcase his more elegant and playful side. The album opens with the title track “Spanglish” which sets the tone for what’s to come. It’s a quirky little cue for guitar and strings, bristling with Mexican influences, not unlike the Spanish influences in Nyah’s Theme from Mission: Impossible 2. The cue has an interesting structure in that it builds up to a climax, then suddenly stops and starts building again, but going a little further each time. By the end of the track, the strings are going berserk in a way you would expect from John Williams or perhaps Danny Elfman, but not Hans Zimmer.

Being close to ten minutes in length, “The Beach” is by far the score’s longest and inevitably most varied cue. It starts off with a fairly soft theme over frantic strings, echoing the opening cue, but quickly makes an introspective turn reminiscent of Lauras Stern, an animated feature from last year score by Hans Zimmer and Nick Glennie-Smith. Halfway into the cue, pizzicato strings start doing a Jaws-like motif, while strings and woodwinds continue to play the cue’s theme though they keep fading in and out. It’s only very short, but quite interesting. The track continues with soft strings, which sometimes sound quite menacing, and meandering piano motifs more like James Horner’s intimate score for To Gillian, rather than anything from Zimmer.

“Welcome to the Claskys” starts of rather minimalistically before turning into a vibrant cue for guitar and strings. The detail in the string writing is astounding; as is the performance, where you can literally hear the bow bounce of the snares, it adds so much energy to the cue. It is truly unlike any Zimmer score out there, though admittedly a movie like King Arthur or Thunderbirds would not be likely to give him the opportunity to showcase this kind of writing. “Drunk and Disorderly” is a cue that sounds much more like the Zimmer we know; while “John Comes Homes” is an original composition from Heitor Pereira. Much like the track it follows, it’s nice but nothing special.

One of the score’s highlights is “Learning English”, in which the main theme is performed by guitar and violin over layers of frantically playing pizzicato and staccato strings. Two thirds into this short cue, there is a wonderful shift in key and rhythm as the theme gets a more lavish performance than it’s had thus far. More fast plucking strings and short flute bursts can be heard in the energetic “No Left”. Oddly enough, this cue makes such a dramatic twist towards something a lot more modern-sounding that one would suspect the producers forgot the create a new track.

“Malibu” starts off with plucking celli doing the Jaws-like motif that was also heard in “The Beach”, while a piano plays the main theme in a somewhat mysterious manner. However, this idea soon makes way for another traditional guitar and strings performance of the main theme. Halfway into the cue this theme is also abandoned and bouncing strings and flute take centre stage. “Cooking” briefly continues energetically with plucked strings, before settling down with a Thomas Newman-esque passage for slow strings and flute. The last score cue on the album is “Bus Stop”. Other than the main theme it has some distinctly Horner-ish moments, as well as some Pearl Harbor-like moments. Over the course of five minutes it works towards a satisfying final rendition of the main theme, before George and Ira Gershwin’s “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” closes the album.

Spanglish, which was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2004, is a very welcome departure for Zimmer as it once again shows that he is so much more talented than he is often credited for. It’s a most charming album, and it features some unusually detailed string writing. Yet, the score is somewhat mono-thematic and the arrangements do lack a little in variation. The main theme is pleasant enough, but hardly leaves an impression after the soundtrack has come to an end. The pizzicato strings that dominate quite a few tracks on this album do tend to get on your nerves eventually. It’s an intriguing little score coming from Zimmer that offers a lot of interesting new ideas, but ultimately fails to make a grand impression.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Spanglish (2:46)
  • The Beach (9:46)
  • Welcome to the Claskys (3:19)
  • Drunk and Disorderly (2:15)
  • John Comes Home (written by Heitor Pereira) (1:55)
  • Learning English (1:32)
  • No Left (3:54)
  • Malibu (3:16)
  • Cooking (1:24)
  • Bus Stop (5:08)
  • They Can’t Take That Away From Me (written by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, performed by Cloris Leachman and Ian Hyland) (3:00)

Running Time: 38 minutes 14 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6632 (2004)

Music composed by Hans Zimmer. Conducted by Blake Neely. Performed by The Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Orchestrated by Suzette Moriarty, Rick Giovinazzo, Ladd McIntosh, Walt Fowler, Elizabeth Finch and Brad Warnaar. Featured musical soloists Heitor Pereira, Daisy Jopling, Aleksey Igudesman, Tristan Schulze and Martin Tillman. Recorded and mixed by Alan Meyerson. Mastered by Patricia Sullivan . Album produced by Hans Zimmer.

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