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MR. DESTINY – David Newman

November 5, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Mr. Destiny is a fantasy comedy written and directed by James Orr, about time-traveling wish fulfillment. It stars Jim Belushi as Larry, a completely ordinary middle class guy, married to his childhood sweetheart (Linda Hamilton), working a completely ordinary middle class job. However, despite his seemingly normal life, Larry has always felt he was destined for something more, and has settled on the idea that, back in high school, he struck out in an end-of-season baseball game. Larry believes that, had he not failed in that moment, his life would have become something truly special – he feels cheated out of his destiny. Everything changes for Larry when he stumbles into an unfamiliar bar on his 35th birthday, and meets a mysterious barman (Michael Caine) who gives him the opportunity to go back to that pivotal instant, and do his life over. The film has an interesting supporting cast – Jon Lovitz, Courteney Cox, Rene Russo – and has echoes of the cinema classic It’s a Wonderful Life, but has largely been forgotten today, having failed to make an impact with box office audiences at the time.

The score for Mr. Destiny is by David Newman and, despite expectations to the contrary, is one of his career best. After jumping around from horror to action to animation to comedy to straight drama throughout most of the early years of his career, it was around this time that Newman really consolidated himself as the go-to composer for big budget mainstream comedies; after Mr. Destiny, Newman would quickly go on to write massively over-achieving orchestral scores for a series of box office smashes, including Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Flintstones, The Nutty Professor, Jingle All the Way, and Bowfinger. However, despite the success of those later films, it’s tempting to point at Mr. Destiny as the score on which Newman began to hone his sound for the genre, and as such it’s worth exploring for that reason alone.

It’s clear that Newman’s intent in scoring Mr. Destiny the way he did was to emphasize the magical element of the story – the wish fulfillment of exploring what could have been – as well as the emotional depth that comes with such knowledge. As such, the score is brimming with large scale emotional melodrama and beautiful orchestral writing, as well as some more electronically enhanced passages which contribute a goosebump sensation of magic and wonderment. The entire score is effectively summarized in the opening suite, “Mr. Destiny,” which contains strong examples of pretty much everything the score has to offer. It’s fully orchestral, warm and magical, and emotionally uplifting. There is an epic sweep to some of the brass writing, and a touch of pseudo-religious vibrato in the phrasing of the strings, a lovely echo of a stylistic his father Alfred used regularly. The sequence beginning at 2:33 is especially notable, a powerful fanfare of sporting triumph, horns blaring, percussion resounding, strings rolling with buoyancy, just superb.

Much of the rest of the score takes its lead from the ideas introduced in the suite, with a few variations and adaptations to illustrate different emotional states. The “Main Title,” for example, sees the main theme presented with darker phrasing to the strings, illustrating Larry’s dissatisfaction with his life. “Larry’s Life is Changed” revisits the flamboyant sporting fanfare from the suite with equal gusto that will remind many people of the superb heroic grandeur heard in Newman’s 1999 score Galaxy Quest. Larry has hit the home run! But now what?

There are further statements of the main theme arranged with tenderness and sensitivity in cues like “Larry Sees His House” and especially “Larry Looks for Ellen,” which features a lovely conversation between piano and woodwinds and gradually grows to include supporting performances from soft sentimental strings, elegant and touching. Thankfully, however, Newman introduces some new ideas to keep things interesting, including “Cindy Joe’s Present,” a light jazz piece, sexy and sultry, with a prominent clarinet and jazz combo. Later, the brief “Leo Sneaks Around” has an unexpected touch of Ennio Morricone to it, and sees Newman pairing urgent piano undulations with harpsichord and woodwind sounds that come across like refugees from a 1970s Euro-thriller.

Newman even finds time to write some action music. “Larry Meets Jerry” showcases darker orchestral textures, insistent synths, dissonance, and even some horror phrasing in the brass, clearly showing that Larry’s alternate reality life is not all he expected it to be. The action rhythms in the finale of the cue are unexpectedly intense, and some of the simmering string writing will undoubtedly remind people of action scores like The Phantom and perhaps Operation Dumbo Drop, before it all melts away into a lovely statement of the main theme. Later, “Larry Punches Out Niles” allows Newman some more room for forceful action; here, the strings swirl violently while the xylophone-heavy rhythmic ideas add a level of anxious intensity. Listen also for the electronic textures, which have more than a hint of Basil Poledouris and Robocop to them.

The conclusive pair “Going Back Home” and “Larry is Home” combine to provide a sweeping finale reprising all the main thematic and textural ideas. As was the case in the opening suite, Newman’s harmonies are just gorgeous, the brass writing is warm, the woodwinds are elegant, and the sweep in the strings allow for an emotionally satisfying conclusion. In the end – as always tends to be the case in films like this – Larry realizes that the life he has with his wife and family is truly his destiny, and offers more than any fantasy of power and wealth ever could.

The score for Mr. Destiny was one of those Varese Sarabande 30-minute spectaculars that were so scorned in the 1990s but, honestly, I think that the album is a perfect snippet of everything good in the score, showcased in an easily digestible package. The score has become somewhat rare since its initial 1990 release, but it appears to still be available for pretty affordable prices on the secondary market. If you have ever wondered why David Newman is held in such high esteem by industry colleagues and veteran film score fans alike, Mr. Destiny would be a great score to explore – it contains all the emotion, compositional strength, and orchestral depth that became Newman hallmarks.

Buy the Mr. Destiny soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Mr. Destiny (5:04)
  • Main Title (1:44)
  • Larry’s Life is Changed (3:43)
  • Cindy Joe’s Present (1:14)
  • Larry Sees His Office (0:50)
  • Larry Sees His House (1:56)
  • Leo Sneaks Around (0:29)
  • Larry Meets Jerry (4:16)
  • Larry Looks for Ellen (3:52)
  • Larry Punches Out Niles (1:07)
  • Going Back Home (0:48)
  • Larry is Home (5:07)

Running Time: 30 minutes 10 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5299 (1990)

Music composed and conducted by David Newman. Orchestrations by David Newman. Recorded and mixed by Tim Boyle. Edited by Tom Villano. Album produced by David Newman and Tim Boyle.

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