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The Boxtrolls (Dario Marianelli)

December 4, 2014

Cover_BoxtrollsTHE BOXTROLLS

Dario Marianelli, 2014, Back Lot Music
25 tracks, 62:52

Daria Marianelli, master of drama and romance turns his hand to animation, but not just any -mation. “The Boxtrolls” is playful, yet surprisingly dark.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“The Boxtrolls” is the latest family-movie from the creators of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”. The Boxtrolls are a community of quirky, mischievous creatures who have lovingly raised a human boy named Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead Wright of “Game of Thrones”) in the amazing cavernous home they’ve built beneath the streets of Cheesebridge. When the town’s villain, Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley), comes up with a plot to get rid of the Boxtrolls, Eggs decides to venture above ground, “into the light,” where he meets and teams up with fabulously feisty Winnie (Elle Fanning of “Maleficent”). Together, they devise a daring plan to save Eggs’ family. Based upon the book Here Be Monsters, by Alan Snow, “The Boxtrolls” is directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable.

What does it sound like?

The score opens surprisingly dark with “The Unspeakable Has Happened”, which deliberately harkens back to the glory days of Hammer Horror without being downright scary. Muted brass and tremolo string aplenty here – and elsewhere! It is worth exploring the film, as the score is a lot darker than your average ‘kiddie’ score! Though, coming from the makers of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman” maybe it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

The orchestra made use, at one time or another, of a theremin, a saw, a music box, toy piano, dulcimer, accordion, rubbed glasses, washboards, broken light bulbs, forks and knives, and a typewriter,” says Marianelli.

“The Boxtrolls Cavern” is a playful piece for staccato strings and running flutes. It’s almost John Williamsian at times. Some of the score action cues, which are remarkably forceful I have to say, also have an air of Williams about them. Just listen to the insane brass flurries in “Rooftop Chase”. Other excellent action cues include “To The Rescue” and “Last Battle”.

Elsewhere the score houses a lovely, fragile melody for Eggs – it features prominently in “Egg’s Music Box” (where it is indeed performed on a music box), “Broken Eggs”, “I Was Given To Them” and “What’s A Father?”. These are easily my personal favorite tracks, as they show off the dramatic Marianelli I’ve come to love through “Pride & Prejudice” and “Jane Eyre”.

Dario came up with three pieces that, while differentiated, hold the movie together: music for the Boxtrolls’ wonderful world in their cavern, music for the White Hats’ high-society world in Cheesebridge, and music for the Boxtrolls-snatching Red Hats gang,” co-director Anthony Stacchi explains.

The score also features a couple of songs and specific set-pieces. “Cheesebridge Funfair” and “Say Cheese”, for example, are two pieces for brass band and winds in waltz-time akin to German ‘oompapa’ music. “Slap Waltz” takes the score’s theme and sees them arranged in a Straussian fashion. “The Boxtrolls Song” (written by comedian Eric Idle; featuring Patrick Doyle putting on a German accent) is frankly hideous. Loch Lomond performs three more songs at the end, which are fine but nothing remarkable. Unsurprisingly, the best song comes courtesy of Marianelli himself. “Quattro Sabatino” is a classical-inspired operatic piece performed by a quartet of male vocalists.

Marianelli says of his barbershop quartet: “One of the most important scenes was also one of the earliest I worked on: the montage sequence during which Eggs is growing up. I had a few goes at scoring it before we all agreed that having that one song, “Quattro Sabatinos”, going through would help the montage gel together better.

Orchestrated for full orchestra (augmented with some unusual instruments), the emphasis is on strings and winds where the quiter moments are concerned, and brass and percussion during the action cues. The overal tone is quite dark, yet playful. It doesn’t quite succumb to micky-mousing (not in an obvious way), but it is quite quirky at times through its playful compositions and orchestrations. During the dark moments expect to hear some wonderfully dense brass clusters.

Is it any good?

It goes without saying that the score is masterfully composed and orchestrated. Dario Marianelli is undoubtedly one of the finest composers working in Hollywood today. “The Boxtrolls” once again displays his talent, as well as his inventiveness where the orchestrations are concerned. There are some lovely moments to be found here. Some truly astonishing action cues too! It’s an easy score to admire for its technical prowess. And yet, in spite of all this the score doesn’t quite grab me the way I had hoped it would. Perhaps it’s just a little too quirky at times for my personal liking. The themes, aside from Eggs’ theme, don’t really resonate with me. I admire its craftsmanship, but I’m afraid I struggle to love it as much as I want to.

Rating [3/5]

Tracklisting

1. The Unspeakable Has Happened
2. The Scavengers
3. The Boxtrolls Cavern
4. Eggs’ Music Box
5. Quattro Sabatinos – Dario Marianelli featuring Peter Harris, Alex Tsilogiannis, Thomas Kennedy, Edmund Saddington Peter Harris, Alex Tsilogiannis, Thomas Kennedy, Edmund Saddington
6. One Busy Night
7. Rooftop Chase
8. Broken Eggs
9. Cheesebridge Funfair
10. The Boxtrolls Song – Words & Music by Eric Idle; performed by Mark Orton & Loch Lomond
11. Snatcher and His Stooges
12. Allergic
13. To the Rescue
14. I’m Sure I Am Delicious
15. I Was Given to Them
16. What’s a Father
17. Slap Waltz
18. Snatcher’s ‘Dramatical’ Entrance
19. Look What You Did
20. Jelly!
21. Last Battle
22. Say Cheese
23. Little Boxes – performed by Loch Lomond
24. Some Kids – performed by Loch Lomond
25. Whole World – performed by Loch Lomond

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