Home > Reviews > KINDERGARTEN COP – Randy Edelman

KINDERGARTEN COP – Randy Edelman

December 17, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Having spent most of the 1980s playing a series of unstoppable villains or muscled action heroes in films like Conan the Barbarian, The Terminator, Commando, and Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger sought to add a new aspect to his career in the early 1990s by starring in a series of more family-friendly comedies. He started in 1988 with Twins, in which he was paired with the pint-sized Danny De Vito, but it was not until 1990 that he was asked to carry a comedy all by himself. That movie was Kindergarten Cop, directed by Ivan Reitman, and saw Schwarzenegger starring as John Kimball, a tough LAPD narcotics detective forced to go undercover as a teacher in an Oregon kindergarten in order to help protect the ex-wife of a ruthless drug dealer. Having spent his entire career breaking rules – and the heads of criminals – Kimball of course finds himself wholly unprepared to look after a class full of raucous pre-teens, and hilarity ensues, while the threat of the drug dealer looms large in the background. The film co-starred Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, and Richard Tyson, and was an enormous box office hit, grossing more than $200 million at the box office, and proving that Schwarzenegger’s star power was not limited to fist-fights and gun battles.

The score for Kindergarten Cop was by composer Randy Edelman, who had had an unusual career prior to this film. He actually scored his first movie – a JFK assassination thriller called Executive Action starring Burt Lancaster – way back in 1972, when he was just 26 years old, but he then spent most of the 1970s as a pop music singer-songwriter, penning hits for artists like The Carpenters and Barry Manilow, and enjoying some success of his own with songs like “Concrete and Clay” and “Uptown Uptempo Woman” from his 1975 album Farewell Fairbanks. He drifted back into film scoring towards the middle of the 1980s, scoring episodes of the TV series MacGyver, and then returning to the big screen with The Chipmunk Adventure in 1987. He first teamed up with Ivan Reitman in 1988 when he was asked to partially replace Georges Delerue’s score for Twins, and then scored his first major box office hit with Ghostbusters II in 1989. Kindergarten Cop was his third collaboration with Reitman, and its success – combined with those previous ones – essentially cemented his career and led to him being one of the busiest and most in-demand composers in Hollywood through the 1990s. Only one of Edelman’s prior scores – the long-forgotten action-comedy Feds from 1988 – had received a dedicated score CD release, and so for many people Kindergarten Cop would have been their first experience of Edelman’s music.

The main cornerstone of Randy Edelman’s music is melody, melody, melody. From day one his scores overflowed with memorable and catchy thematic ideas, whistleable tunes which stayed with you long after the movie ended. This is likely a holdover from his songwriter days, and also explains why so many of his subsequent main themes – Come See the Paradise, Dragonheart, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – became such popular trailer music selections. Kindergarten Cop is no exception, as it too overflows with at least three strongly memorable melodic ideas that recur throughout the score.

The first three cues on the album essentially act as a 7-minute suite, introducing all of the score’s main thematic material. The first two cues are all related to the school and the children within it. The “Astoria School Theme” is likely the most recognizable theme in the score and represents exactly what it says it does, offering a sweet, gentle, pastoral, lullabyish melody with a lovely sweep in the strings. The “Children’s Montage” introduces two different themes, both of which are associated with the children themselves; the first is an effervescent piece for piano and subtle guitars backed by charming strings and light chimes, while the second one (introduced at 0:43) becomes livelier and more playful with a rhythmic chugging effect under the string and woodwind melody. As the montage develops these two new themes interweave with the Astoria School Theme and some brief initial hints of the Love Theme to create an all-encompassing identity for the children (and the teacher) that Kimball grows to love, and who he will give his life to protect.

Finally, the “Love Theme” represents the developing relationship between Kimball and Joyce, the mother of one of his students who is also a teacher at the Astoria school. A softly romantic piano theme performed by Edelman himself, and which has a great deal in common with some of the romantic songs Edelman penned back in the day, it adds a lot of depth to what might have otherwise been a slightly awkward and forced sub-plot, and ends up being one of the loveliest romance themes of Edelman’s early career.

The rest of the score grows organically out of this central quartet of themes, with several subsequent statements really standing out as highlights. “Rain Ride” offers an upbeat variation on the Children’s theme with light rock stylings and plenty of keyboards that recalls his work on Twins. “The Kindergarten Cop” is sentimental and warmly endearing. “Poor Cindy/Gettysburg Address” starts with a touch of suspense and anguish, but gradually grows into a patriotic piece which plays as Kimball watches his kids recite Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech for a school event, and swells with pride at their achievement. Interestingly, there are some brief hints of the musical stylistics that would eventually make their way into his score for the Gettysburg movie in 1993. Then, both “A Dinner Invitation” and the “Love Theme Reprise” take the romantic relationship between Kimball and Joyce a step further, with more lovely writing for piano and strings.

Two one-off ideas are heard for the only time (on CD at least) in “Dominic’s Theme/A Rough Day”. The former is a downbeat, slightly disconsolate woodwind melody for the saddest kid in the class who Kimble takes under his wing – and who turns out to be the key to the crime Kimball is trying to solve. The latter is a piece of piano jazz which accompanies the hangdog weariness that Kimball feels at the end of each day spent wrangling kindergartners, as he returns to his crappy motel room, falls face-first onto the bed, and complains to his flu-afflicted partner that his pint-sized charges are ‘horrible’.

The final element of the score is the action/suspense material related to Kimball and his pursuit of the ruthless drug dealer Crisp. “Stalking Crisp” actually underscores the first scene in the movie, as the shabby Kimball acts as a ‘party pooper,’ blasting his way through assorted scuzz buckets in search of suspects. Edelman uses pulsing strings, brass clusters, thumping percussion, and bass-heavy electronic grooves to capture the scene, giving the urban criminal LA underworld that is Kimball’s usual hunting ground a menacing vibe. Interestingly, several of these textures would later end up in scores like Daylight, The Quest, and Anaconda, as part of Edelman’s signature dark action style. Later cues like “The Line Up/Fireside Chat” and “Kimball Reveals the Truth” build on these stylistics, while the conclusive “Fire at the School,” which accompanies the final showdown between Kimball and Crisp, takes the action writing to its highest points, and grows into a dramatic finale.

Thankfully, everything is resolved, the bad guys are dispatched, Kimball gets the girl – and a career change! – and the “Closing” features a lovely medley of the main thematic material, including a tender statement of the love theme for piano and strings, and a sweeping reprise of the Astoria School Theme to round out the album.

Kindergarten Cop is a lovely score, one of Randy Edelman’s best, with a handful of themes that even today remain among his career highlights. Some people may find the whole thing to be a little too cloyingly sweet at times, while others may find the action and suspense music to be a little thin – a criticism that dogged Edelman throughout his career – but I have always appreciated its straightforward charm, its easy lyricism, and its positive emotional content. In fact, this score might actually be a prime candidate for an expansion, because there’s plenty of music in the film that didn’t make it onto Varese Sarabande’s 40-minute album. Until that happens, I’ll just remind you of these three nuggets of wisdom from Kimball’s kindergarten kids: boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, it’s not a tumor, and if anyone asks you ‘who is your daddy and what does he do?’ do NOT say that he’s a real sex machine!

Buy the Kindergarten Cop soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Astoria School Theme (1:06)
  • Children’s Montage (3:21)
  • Love Theme (Joyce) (2:30)
  • Stalking Crisp (3:39)
  • Dominic’s Theme/A Rough Day (1:54)
  • The Line Up/Fireside Chat (2:57)
  • Rain Ride (1:55)
  • The Kindergarten Cop (1:27)
  • Poor Cindy/Gettysburg Address (2:06)
  • A Dinner Invitation (0:47)
  • Love Theme Reprise (1:25)
  • A Magic Place (2:54)
  • Kimball Reveals the Truth (1:44)
  • The Tower/Everything is OK (2:29)
  • Fire at the School (5:38)
  • Closing (2:14)

Running Time: 38 minutes 06 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5306 (1990)

Music composed and conducted by Randy Edelman. Orchestrations by Grieg McRitchie and Mark McKenzie. Recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy. Edited by Kathy Durning. Album produced by Randy Edelman.

  1. Gerard E Beaubrun
    December 24, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    WOW! i will admit that this score has stayed in my mind from the day I have seen this movie. There is an overwhelming sense of happiness emanating from the notes.
    Your web site truly has become a delight for me.

    thank you so much for pouring your efforts into the articles you write. While they are reviews, they are clearly poems expanding on the beauty, circumstantial relevance and authorship expression of each of the tracks,

  2. Bruno Costa
    December 28, 2020 at 5:35 am

    It’s Kimble. John Kimble.

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