Home > Reviews > THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL – Robert Rodriguez, John Debney and Graeme Revell

THE ADVENTURES OF SHARKBOY AND LAVAGIRL – Robert Rodriguez, John Debney and Graeme Revell

adventuresofsharkboyandlavagirlOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Director Robert Rodriguez’s career continues to confound me: having wowed the world with his ultra low budget thriller El Mariachi in 1992, and subsequently risen to be a “darling of the cool independent set” with films such as Desperado, From Dusk Til Dawn and The Faculty, he has simultaneously developed a sideline in action-adventure children’s movies, notably the Spy Kids series. Rodriguez’s bizarre duel life had arguably reached its nadir in 2005 with the release of the ultra-slick, ultra-violent Sin City, and this polar opposite film: The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Co-written by Rodriguez’s 7-year-old son Racer, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl is an unashamedly juvenile action adventure starring young actors Taylor Dooley (female) and Taylor Lautner (male) as the titular Sharkboy and Lavagirl, the imaginary creations of a young kid named Max (Cayden Boyd), who spends most of his time daydreaming up adventures for his super-heroes to have. However, one day, Sharkboy and Lavagirl appear in real life, and bring Max to their home of Planet Drool, which is apparently being destroyed, and only he can save it… It’s a perfect childhood fantasy, and wholesome entertainment for younger kids, but much has been made of the fact that Rodriguez has filmed significant portions of it in rather shoddy 3-D, a cinematic technology that should have been consigned to history a decade ago. Nevertheless, I won’t personally be venturing to the cinema to confirm or deny this for myself, having suffered enough during Spy Kids 3.

Having successfully collaborated with John Debney and Graeme Revell on Sin City, Rodriguez continues the three-pronged musical approach here, albeit with significantly inferior results. The one thing I can’t quite understand is why this film needs three composers: whereas the approach on Sin City was to underscore the trio of interlinking stories in different ways, on Sharkboy and Lavagirl the decision makes no creative sense, and ultimately results in a score which has no real personality of its own.

In addition, quite inexplicably, the score is very shoddily produced. The vast majority of the score is written for synthesizers – not necessarily a bad thing in itself, except that in this instance the resulting electronic sound is akin to something a wannabe composer would create using a cheap keyboard and basic sequencing software. Unless it was a conscious choice by Rodriguez to adopt a retro stylistic, given the level of quality synths and samples available on the market these days, it is unforgivable for a modern score to sound so amateurish.

As was the case on Sin City, the score’s main themes are all Rodriguez’s, the most prominent of which is an actually rather nice undulating motif for Lava Girl herself, which sounds like a cross between a sampled voice and an erhu. It first appears in the second track, “The Lava Girl”, and features prominently in the rather attractive pair “Lavagirl’s Sacrifice” and “The Light”. The theme for Shark Boy is more punchy and muscular, a pseudo-heroic motif for synth brasses, which first appears in the opening cue, is heard subsequently in “Sharkboy and Lavagirl Return”, and is used as a recurring ostinato under some of the action material. “Battle of the Dreamers” is also quite clever through its inclusion of a sampled theremin, another retro touch.

Revell’s main contributions are a series of action cues, notably “Mount Never Rest”, “Mr. Electric” and “Mr. Electric on Earth”, some of which bring to mind his work on Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, but never attain their heights. Debney, meanwhile, seems to have asked been to provide what scant emotional warmth exists. Parts of “The Ice Princess” and “The Day Dreamer” are actually quite lovely, while the action and suspense material in “Train of Thought”, “Stream of Consciousness” and “Sea of Confusion” highlights the gulf in talent between himself and Rodriguez in musical terms.

However, the problem throughout the score is its lack of scope. The rhythmic devices are simplistic, predictable, and have a tendency to mickey-mouse the action. The themes are compositionally plain and show no real depth or imagination, and the whole project has the air of being somewhat rushed, either through a lack of time, money, or a combination of both. If that was not enough, there also three appalling songs: “Dream Dream Dream Dream”, performed without any discernible musical talent by lead actor Lautner; “The LaLa’s”, which wants to be cutesy but is actually plain irritating; and “Sharkboy and Lavagirl”, which is fine musically, but is performed by lead actress Dooley with the attitude of a 12 year old wannabe rock chick.

In response to me criticizing The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl as much as I have, it would be tempting to come back with the argument “but it’s only a children’s film – who notices the music anyway?”. However, I personally feel that that argument holds no water. Some of the best film music ever written has come from films aimed specifically at the younger generation, many of whom are so discerning and clued-up nowadays that they would probably notice the lack of quality in the music anyway. Aiming your film at a children’s market is no reason to allow the score to suffer. In short, this score is disappointing. Instead of letting rip and having fun, the combined talents of Rodriguez, Debney and Revell barely leave any impression.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • The Shark Boy (3:47)
  • The Lava Girl (1:28)
  • Max’s Dream (1:37)
  • Sharkboy and Lavagirl Return (1:44)
  • Planet Drool (2:12)
  • Mount Never Rest (2:35)
  • Passage of Time (1:33)
  • Mr. Electric (2:09)
  • Train of Thought (2:01)
  • Dream Dream Dream Dream (Dream Dream) (written by Robert Rodriguez, performed by Taylor Lautner) (1:54)
  • Stream of Consciousness (1:32)
  • Sea of Confusion (3:04)
  • The LaLa’s (1:09)
  • The Ice Princess (2:57)
  • Sharkboy vs. Mr. Electric (1:55)
  • Lavagirl’s Sacrifice (2:12)
  • The Light (2:21)
  • Battle of the Dreamers (1:21)
  • Mr. Electric on Earth (1:13)
  • Unplugged (1:12)
  • The Day Dreamer (1:29)
  • Sharkboy and Lavagirl (written by Robert Rodriguez, performed by Taylor Dooley) (4:09)

Running Time: 43 minutes 26 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6658 (2005)

Music composed by Robert Rodriguez, John Debney and Graeme Revell. Recorded and mixed by Wolfgang Amadeus. Album produced by Robert Rodriguez and Robert Townson.

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