Home > Reviews > ALIENS IN THE ATTIC – John Debney


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A family sci-fi adventure, Aliens in the Attic follows in the footsteps of films like Jumanji and Zathura in pitting a group of resourceful children against a group of fantastical creatures invading their home. Carter Jenkins, Austin Butler, Ashley Boettcher and Ashley Tisdale from the High School Musical series star as a quartet of kids who discover that their summer home has become infested with knee-high aliens who want to take over the world. The film is directed by John Schultz and has a fun, if a little derivative, score by John Debney.

Written for a full and lavish symphony orchestra, Aliens in the Attic spends quite a bit of time channeling both Danny Elfman and Bernard Herrmann, mainly through its liberal use of a theremin to depict the alien invaders. The problem with the score – as is often the case with children’s films – is that the score leaps around from style to style so rapidly that it quickly loses its center. Case in point: the “Main Title” features everything from modern pop-rock, pseudo-classical comedy caper music, spooky woodwind-led ‘creepy’ music, all in the space of three and a bit minutes.

Debney’s scores for films like these are always workmanlike and effective, but on album it suffers badly from its acute musical schizophrenia. One or two tracks to stand out as being especially notable: action cues such as “Anti-Gravity”, “Nana Barges In”, “Jake After Assassin”, “Kids Swing Into Action” and “Fight of the Giants” often contain large-scale, Cutthroat Island-esque orchestral licks, occasional bursts of choral majesty, and an unexpectedly powerful drive which are quite satisfying and fun. Elsewhere, some of the eerier, more atmospheric parts of cues such as “Aliens on the Roof” manage to create a sense of tension without truly scaring the kids, while most of the rest has a synthesized drum-beat undercurrent to root the score in contemporary times, or an intentionally over-stated electronic pulse or sound effect to reminds listeners that these are aliens we’re dealing with here.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Aliens in the Attic in any way; other than its everything-including-the-kitchen-sink attitude, its main problem is that it sounds like any one of a dozen children’s adventure scores, and despite being very well composed, polished and slick, suffers from a real lack of an individual identity.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Opening (1:42)
  • Main Title (3:17)
  • Nate and Family Arrive (1:07)
  • Aliens on the Roof (2:33)
  • Roof Fight (3:32)
  • Aliens in the Attic (0:53)
  • Anti-Gravity (3:03)
  • Aliens in the Vents (1:15)
  • Remote Control Ricky (0:43)
  • Hannah Meets Sparks (1:35)
  • Kids Meet Sparks (1:59)
  • Interrogation (2:10)
  • Nana Barges In (2:58)
  • Sheriff (1:01)
  • Jake After Assassin (0:25)
  • Kung Fu Fight (2:52)
  • Let’s Go Save the Planet (1:55)
  • Building Sizematron (1:00)
  • Mentos Attack (1:07)
  • Giant Skip (0:50)
  • Kids Swing Into Action (1:17)
  • Beacons… Fireworks (0:43)
  • Tom Shoots Skip (0:45)
  • Fight of the Giants (2:14)
  • Sparks Waves (2:27)
  • The End?? (0:34)

Running Time: 43 minutes 57 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6982 (2009)

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