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THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS – Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro

Original Review by Christopher Garner

Dreamworks’ The Boss Baby: Family Business takes place after Tim and Ted Templeton (the characters from the first Boss Baby) have grown up and grown apart. Older brother Tim has had two children of his own, Tabitha and Tina. Younger brother Ted has become a successful businessman, but work keeps him from having any personal connections with his brother’s family or anyone else. It turns out that baby Tina is a boss baby like her uncle Ted was, and has been tasked with bringing the brothers back together again and stopping evil Dr. Armstrong who runs Tabitha’s school, and who is bent on enslaving all parents so that children can be free. Tom McGrath returned to direct the sequel. Alec Baldwin reprises his role from the first film, and James Marsden, Amy Sedaris, Ariana Greenblatt, and Jeff Goldblum join the cast as grown-up Tim, Tim’s children, and the villainous Armstrong respectively. The film has had mixed reviews from critics. It’s not exactly intellectual cinema, and the whole idea of a sequel kind of undercuts the frame of the first film, but it has a lot of laughs for parents and kids, and Baldwin, Marsden, and Goldblum (at his Goldblummiest) are clearly having a great time.

Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro also returned to score the sequel. Zimmer and his Remote Control group have been working with Dreamworks Animation from their first film. Mazzaro has been with Remote Control for nearly a decade. This is his third time sharing composer credit with Zimmer after the first Boss Baby and the 2020 SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run. As they did for the first film, Zimmer and Mazzaro have crafted a fun, large, orchestral score full of themes that get dozens of variations. The two-part main theme from the first score is back, and joining that theme we get a family reunification theme, a villain theme, a two-part theme for Tabitha, and a theme for baby Tina. Only Tina’s theme is presented in a similar way each time it appears. All of the other themes are extremely dexterous and can be used equally well for quiet emotional moments as they can for action music, as Zimmer and Mazzaro vary the orchestration, rhythm, and sometimes even the melody of the various themes. There’s nothing here that matches the grandeur of “Love” from the first film’s soundtrack album (which may be due to the absence of Conrad Pope), but it’s very impressive to see so many themes put through so many variations over the course of the score.

The album seems to have been produced giving priority to listening experience over film order. Each of the first six tracks introduces one of the major musical themes. “To Baby Corp” starts with a sunny wordless arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek,” which song featured prominently enough in the first film that my children walked around the house singing it for months after watching it. The song works as a theme of sorts for Baby Corp, but it only gets a nod here before the music moves on to introduce us to the first new theme of the score—what I’m calling the family reunification theme. It’s briefly performed by wordless choir and strings in the middle of the cue. We then get the return of the throwback jazzy vocal style used in the first score that reminds me of groups like the Swingle Singers or the Ron Hicklin Singers from the 1960s and ‘70s. The singers use jazz harmonies, ba ba vocals, and are often accompanied by double bass and drums. The family theme comes back for a bit at the end of the track.

“Ted Comes Home” introduces the villain theme. The cue opens with an ominous take on those jazzy vocals from the first track with a rising four-note motif that leads up to, and then serves as counterpoint for, a brass performance of the villain theme, which is a descending chromatic melody. The juxtaposition of the rising vocals and the descending brass works really well to create a great big bad-guy sound. It’s a fantastic introduction to the theme, which receives many variations throughout the score, but none of them ever reach the heights of this first appearance. Interestingly, the villain of the film isn’t even in the scene this cue accompanies at all, but since baby Tina’s mission is as much (or more) about fixing the estrangement between the Templeton brothers as it is about stopping Dr. Armstrong, that estrangement is also something of a villain, and this scene foregrounds that estrangement well.

“Bedtime” introduces us to Tabitha’s theme, which is just wonderful. It’s a sweet long-lined theme performed in this case on piano over harp and ooing choir. Like the main theme, it has an A part and B part that often appear separately elsewhere on the album. The theme is lovely, heartfelt, and surprisingly long—the track itself is just under a minute long, but it takes nearly the entire time to play through both parts of the theme. “The Attic” reintroduces us to the main theme in a soft woodwind variation. It then shifts through several different styles, some lush and beautiful, some suspenseful (with theremin), before ending on more ba ba vocals. “Crisis at Baby Corp” introduces Baby Tina’s theme, which is a funky bass guitar riff accompanied at first by finger snaps. The composers then layer in some jazzy electric guitar, high hat, drums, vocals, brass, Hammond organ, and baritone sax by the end. It’s a fun sound with some real swing to it. We get more of Tina’s theme in a very similar presentation in the tracks “They’re Home!” and “She Can Talk.”

“The Chase” is one of the highlights of the score. It opens by quoting Randy Newman’s theme from The Natural, keeping all the same orchestrations, but replacing the melody itself with a variation on the B part of the Boss Baby theme. The Newman callout gives way to some fun, fast-paced orchestral action music and one variation on the main theme after another. Castanets, Spanish guitar, hand claps, and detuned piano join in at various points. It’s loads of fun and just very well done.

As is common with animated films, many of the compositions in this score jump from one musical style to another several times within the same track. We get several variations of the villain theme in “Acorn School” and “Armstrong,” as well as a sweet theme in the former cue that may represent the school itself or its students. “Meet the Templetons” shows off just how versatile the main theme is, flitting from one variation of the theme to another every 15 seconds or so. The theme works just as well as happy, bouncy piano music as it does as heavy metal, or on saloon-style detuned piano, or on harmonica, or in a minor-key with full orchestra. “Nightmare court” starts with Tabitha’s theme and the main theme before getting scary and more than a little zany. It reminds me of James Horner’s music for Casper’s uncles.

“We Overslept” gives us a supersonic solo violin performance supported by accordion, piano, and drums. It’s seriously impressive – some of the fastest violin playing I’ve ever heard in a film score. “Family Dinner” gives us several nice variations of the main theme performed by various woodwinds (oboe, flute, and bassoon) over accordion, xylophone, or harpsichord. Toward the end we get an odd, ploinky water-droplet sound that accompanies Tabitha’s theme on flute.

A lot of the thematic variation is so original and different than you can hardly recognize the themes at all unless you’re really listening for them. “Latchkey Kid” has a nice little variation of the main theme on Spanish guitar, but you really have to be paying attention to pick it out. “Marcos Comes Home” gives us more variations on the main theme and Tabitha’s theme. “Baby Pep Rally” puts the villain theme through some unique variations. “School Days,” another highlight of the album, sees a fantastically fun variation of the B part of Tabitha’s theme performed by a “choir” of kazoos and whistlers before the full orchestra takes it up and turns it into something stirring and gorgeous. “Stop the Show” begins with grand minor-key variations of the main theme and Tabitha’s theme. In “It’s Back On” we get more of Tina’s funk sound before going through several variations of the family reunification theme from the first track. “Mission Planning” gives us a funk variation of the villain theme, as well as a killer trumpet line.

The two-part musical climax begins in “Shutdown the Server,” which switches regularly between the villain theme, Tabitha’s theme, and Tina’s theme. The climax continues in “Yay Templetons!” which begins with a huge orchestral statement of the villain theme. At about 1:40 into the track we get a grand performance of the A part of Tabitha’s theme and it moves into the B part of her theme about a minute later. It’s all an appropriately grand finale to everything that has come before, weaving most of the themes and styles of the score together nicely. “The Greatest Gift” finishes the score with a sentimental rendition of the main theme, then the boppiest version yet of the B part of that theme, before ending on a surprisingly sweet and positive statement of the villain theme, which makes a lot of sense in the context of the film.

There are a couple of songs included at the end of the album. The first is a cover of Cat Stevens’s “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out,” sung mostly by James Marsden, who does very well, though I can’t imagine the odd orchestrations that accompany the lyrics are going to lure many fans of the original song to this version. The other is an original song written for the film called “Together We Stand.” Its message about unity is a little on-the-nose, but it’s sweetly sung by actress Ariana Greenblatt and works well in the film.

I’m so impressed with all the themes and variations that Zimmer and Mazzaro came up with here. The score can veer from zany fun to heartfelt tenderness to full-blown schmaltz, or switch from funk to jazz to flamenco on a dime, and the composers do it so well that it’s easy to enjoy. Animated films typically give composers the chance to write music that’s unrestrained by modern notions that film music should go unnoticed or serve only to create a mood. Zimmer and Mazzaro really capitalized on that opportunity here.

Buy the Boss Baby: Family Business soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • To Baby Corp (2:02)
  • Ted Comes Home (2:27)
  • Bedtime (0:58)
  • The Attic (3:55)
  • Crisis at Baby Corp (1:54)
  • The Secret Formula (0:58)
  • The Chase (3:46)
  • Acorn School (3:58)
  • Meet The Templetons (3:33)
  • Armstrong (2:40)
  • Nightmare Court (2:16)
  • We Overslept (1:02)
  • They’re Home! (1:51)
  • Family Dinner (3:44)
  • Latchkey Kid (0:52)
  • Marcos Comes Home (2:26)
  • Baby Pep Rally (2:13)
  • School Days (2:54)
  • She Can Talk (1:01)
  • Stop the Show (1:49)
  • It’s Back On (3:18)
  • Mission Planning (2:21)
  • Shutdown the Server (5:23)
  • Yay Templetons! (4:05)
  • The Greatest Gift (2:36)
  • If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out (written by Cat Stevens, performed by James Marsden and Ariana Greenblatt feat. Jacob Collier) (2:23)
  • Together We Stand (written by Gary Barlow, performed by Ariana Greenblatt) (3:15)

Running Time: 69 minutes 53 seconds

Backlot Music (2021)

Music composed by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro. Conducted by Gavin Greenaway. Orchestrations by David Giuli and Carl Rydlund. Additional music by Nahre Sol. Recorded and mixed by Geoff Foster. Edited by Ryan Rubin. Album produced by Hans Zimmer and Steve Mazzaro.

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