Film Music Institute > Film Music Magazine (Current) > CD Reviews > CD REVIEW: THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES

Composer: James Horner
Label: Lakeshore Records
Suggested Retail Price: $14.97
Grade: A

Whether you’re playing a sinister board game, or opening up a field guide to fairies, there’s a welcome certainty that you’ll hear the telltale tonalities that spell out a James Horner fantasy score. Since his breakthrough genre work on Krull, Horner has conjured a sense of wonder with a melodically thunderous sound that would do Prokofiev proud. It’s a reliable bag of tricks that have also included darkly playful brass, mysterious electronics, militaristic percussion and a no-holds-barred approach to orchestral emotion – music that manages to be old-fashioned and inventive at the same time in such classic genre scores as Cocoon, The Rocketeer, *Batteries Not Included and The Land Before Time. And where many other composers who started out by his side in the 80’s have had their orchestral magic banished by the Hollywood ogres, we can give thanks that Horner is still practicing his musical wizardry without changing it that much at all.

All of this makes Horner’s new score for The Spiderwick Chronicles a fantasy soundtrack flashback of the best kind, especially if you grooved to his music for Jumanji. There’s no mistaking the more-than-similarities that adventure has with Spiderwick, especially with this film’s kidnapped, unaging character, menacing goblins running amuck in a small town, and a house out under an other-dimensional wrecking ball. And that’s a pretty good thing to those who dug Joe Johnston’s fantasy classic, as Spiderwick wipes out any memory of that other dreadful Jumanji pseudo-sequel Zathura. And it’s even better when Horner is back in the creature-filled house that his music helped to build. Take away the ethnic music that defined the previously cursed board game, then fill this goblin tome with darkly symphonic goodness, and the awesome result is Jumanji’s score all over again in spirit.

Both Jumanji and Spiderwick delight in being sinister kids’ fantasies, putting their characters through fantasy hell to the point where you think an adorable kid just might get whacked by a goblin. Then the menace pulls back at the last moment to tell us everything will indeed be all right. Spiderwick amps up the danger with a Lovecraftian edge, and Horner never misses a menacing, or magical beat in the process. For all of its amazing cgi, Spiderwick is basic fairy tale stuff. And it’s Horner’s reliance on the maestros like Prokofiev and Shostakovich that lets his music capture that kind of fairy tale timeless – as opposed to other soundtracks of the type that feel obliged to shove rock music into the proceedings. But this is exactly the same kind of voice that put Horner on the map. And more than ever, it proves good things never have to change.

Open your copy of THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES here.