Home > Reviews > THE CROODS – Alan Silvestri

THE CROODS – Alan Silvestri

thecroodsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The Croods is the latest animated film from Dreamworks Pictures, about a family of dysfunctional Neanderthals trying to find a new place to live when the cave that has been their home for years is destroyed. The film is directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders – the latter of whom also directed Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon – and has an all-star voice cast featuring Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman. Providing the music for the prehistoric adventure is composer Alan Silvestri, who worked with Sanders on Lilo & Stitch back in 2002, and who is writing his fifth animation score since the turn of the millennium, following The Polar Express, The Wild, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol and the aforementioned Lilo & Stitch.

A large-scale orchestral work filled with the usual soaring melodies and rambunctious rhythms, including a touch of Zimmer-esque Africana, The Croods is in many ways a quintessential Silvestri score, providing color and pathos to the wide range of emotions on display during the film. The album opens with the song “Shine Your Way”, written by Silvestri and lyricist Glen Ballard along with co-directors De Micco and Sanders, and performed by the popular Minnesota rock band Owl City. The melody of the song actually crops up in a couple of later cues, most notably the montage-like “Going Guys Way” and the Lion King-influenced “Star Canopy”, which at least gives the song and score some sense of cohesiveness. However, most score fans will overlook the song as little more than pseudo-pop nonsense, despite Silvestri’s involvement.

The “Prologue” introduces twinkling chimes and an ooh-aah chorus before heading off into a vaguely ethnic reworking of the “Shine Your Way” melody. Later, the entertaining “Smash and Grab” features a re-worked version of Fleetwood Mac’s popular 1979 song “Tusk” featuring the University Southern California Trojan Marching Band, and is a fun homage to American Football display music, all rhythm and pageantry.

The rest of the score is all Silvestri, running the gamut of styles from knockabout Mickey Mouse-style comedy, lush grandeur, and even some surprisingly vivid action material. The lyrical centerpiece of the score is the recurring “Croods Family Theme”, which appears several cues during course of the score before receiving its standout concert performance during the penultimate cue. A gentle, flowing melody which works its way from around the orchestra through rich brasses, glowing strings, accompanied by fluttering woodwind accents, it’s a lovely, if slightly anonymous theme, which is hampered slightly by some superficial similarities to John Williams’ theme from Jurassic Park. Its in-score performances during the tender “Story Time”, the lush “We’ll Die If We Stay Here”, and in the sweeping, ethnically enhanced “Epilogue” keep the music anchored in a recurring thematic identity.

A secondary theme, subtitled the Cave Painting Theme, gets its largest performance during “Cave Painting” and the conclusive set piece, “Big Idea”, as well as the concert-arranged “Cave Painting Theme”, but despite its prettiness and epic sweep of both these idea, the themes are unlikely to be remembered among Silvestri’s most notable melodies.

There are some lovely instrumental textures hiding in pockets of the score: the fluttery interplay between different parts of the woodwind section during “Eep and the Warthog” are great, as is the interpolation of a contemporary electronic beat into the second half of “Family Maze”. Similarly, some of the chord progressions and percussive rhythmic elements in cues like “Teaching Fire to Tiger Girl” are quintessentially Silvestri, reaching all the way back to Back to the Future and Predator.

The action and suspense music in cues like “Exploring New Dangers” and the gargantuan “Planet Collapse” is at times unexpectedly exciting and serious, filled with a sense of palpable menace, while the thrilling “Piranhakeets” and “Big Idea” amp up the excitement levels with extravagant string runs, thunderous percussion hits and heavy brass stingers. At the other end of the emotional scale, “Fire and Corn” is comedy gold, pitting a circus-like rhythm with all manner of percussive anarchy and even a brief nod to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, while “Turkey Fish Follies” at times recalls both the broad Western writing of Back to the Future III and the saxophone cool of Soapdish, and is clearly the work of a composer simply having fun. The lounge jazz of “Grug Flips His Lid” feels a little incongruous and out of place, but I’m sure it makes sense in context.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with The Croods at all. It’s well composed, intelligently designed, has recurring themes and motifs, and some moments of real power and beauty. There are some unusual stylistic choices dotted around here and there, but that’s to be expected in a children’s animated film, and doesn’t diminish the score as a while. As such, I’m struggling to pinpoint what it is about The Croods that I’m failing to connect with. Part of the issue might be my slight niggling concern about its anonymousness and its lack of a really memorable central element to take away, although, having said that, the Family Theme is truly lovely and makes an excellent solo listening experience. Fans of Silvestri’s richly textured orchestral writing will find a lot to enjoy, and a great deal of the score is wonderfully entertaining on its own terms, so perhaps I’m contradicting myself, but there’s just something about it that doesn’t entirely capture me.

Rating: ***½

Buy the Croods soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Shine Your Way (written by Alan Silvestri, Glen Ballard, Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, performed by Owl City feat. Yuna) (3:25)
  • Prologue (2:08)
  • Smash and Grab (4:09)
  • Bear Owl Escape (2:45)
  • Eep and the Warthog (3:52)
  • Teaching Fire to Tiger Girl (1:55)
  • Exploring New Dangers (3:33)
  • Piranhakeets (2:24)
  • Fire and Corn (2:06)
  • Turkey Fish Follies (4:17)
  • Going Guys Way (3:15)
  • Story Time (3:55)
  • Family Maze (3:21)
  • Star Canopy (2:07)
  • Grug Flips His Lid (1:44)
  • Planet Collapse (1:44)
  • We’ll Die If We Stay Here (5:28)
  • Cave Painting (1:12)
  • Big Idea (2:34)
  • Epilogue (4:25)
  • Cave Painting Theme (2:52)
  • The Croods’ Family Theme (5:54)
  • Cantina Croods (1:12)

Running Time: 70 minutes 17 seconds

Relativity Music (2013)

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrated by John Ashton Thomas and Victor Pesavento. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

  1. Artworks
    May 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Found a video of The USC Trojan Marching Band performing Tusk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc8usPlAYbg. “Smash and Grab” is basically Tusk at double speed, still I’m amazed how unique it sounds. If I hadn’t read it, I would have never guessed that this was Tusk 🙂 Wonder how the collaboration with USCTMB came about?

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