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  • Stefan Riedlinger

MouseHunt - Alan Silvestri - Soundtrack Review

This is the first review of a score by Alan Silvestri on my homepage, so as usual some basic facts first. Silvestri is mostly known for his music to “Back To The Future” with Michael J. Fox, directed by Robert Zemeckis.

The movie

"Mouse Hunt" is a 1997 American black comedy slapstick film directed by Gore Verbinski in his directorial debut, written by Adam Rifkin and starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, and featured William Hickey who died shortly after the film was shot. It was the first family film to be released by DreamWorks Pictures, who released it in the United States on December 19, 1997.

The film follows two Laurel and Hardy-like brothers in their struggle against one small but crafty house mouse for possession of a mansion which was willed to them by their father. The film is set in the late 20th century, though with styles humorously ranging from the 1940s to the 1990s. Here is trailer:

The music

A lot of directors have a long lasting collaboration with composers, and Zemeckes likes to work with Silvestri. Other examples of very good collaborations between composers and directors are Steven Spielberg and John Williams, Kenneth Branagh and Patrick Doyle, and, of course, Jerry Goldsmith with Franklin J. Schaffner, Fred Schepisi, Joe Dante and Paul Verhoeven.

Alan Silvestri was born 1950 in Manhattan and started his composing career in 1972, composing the score for the low-budget action film “The Doberman Gang”. From 1977 to 1983, he was the main composer for the TV show “CHiPs”. Zemeckis and Silvestri first worked together on “Romancing the Stone”, the still very popular adventure movie with Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito. Silvestri wrote a highly enjoyable score, and continued to work with Zemeckis on “Back to the Future”, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (for me one of his best scores), “Death Becomes Her” (1992, a funny black comedy), “Forrest Gump” (1994, one of the best movies ever), “Contact” (1997), “Cast Away” (2000), “The Polar Express” (2004), “Beowulf” (2007), “A Christmas Carol” (2009), and “Flight” (2012).

In 1989, Silvestri composed the score for James Cameron’s still underrated SF-movie “The Abyss”. Silvestri is very popular for his scores for the original “Predator” (1987) with Arnie and “Predator 2” (1990) with Danny Glover. Since 2001, Silvestri has also collaborated with director Stephen Sommers, scoring the films “The Mummy Returns” in 2001 (Goldsmith scored the first one, a fantastic score),” Van Helsing” in 2004 (with lovely Kate Beckinsale), and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” in 2009. His most recent work includes “The Avengers” in 2012, and “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” in 2014.

I did not know that the composer also has a vineyard, Silvestri Vineyards, located in Carmel Valley, California.

I decided to take his music to “MouseHunt” as the first score to review. This movie is half a good movie, but has some great scenes, and especially Christopher Walken as mouse hunter is given a hell of a performance. Gore Verbinski, know for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, directed the first family comedy for Dreamworks, but the movie is not always a family comedy because of some crappy scenes and some “over the top humor”. If you think that after watching a movie a mouse was giving the best performance, then this is not a good sign.

The plot is set in a humorous indeterminate 20th century time period, with styles ranging from the 1940s to the 1970s. With a budget of $38. Mio, the movie was quite a success and wrapped up to a total of nearly $140 Mio.

Silvestri’s score is composed in a style that is typical for him, high focus on the brass and percussion section, lovely melodies, a good sense of comedy and drama (mostly underscores with the brass section) and a wonderful end credits track. That you can hear right here.

The score has 17 tracks, is sometimes a little bit repetitive, but because of his mixture of Micky mousing, sad tones, jazzy tunes and also heart warming melodies one of Silvestri’s best works and should not be missed in any collection.

Looking at Silvestri’s it is astonishing that he is able to compose music for every film genre, and his special way of composing is highly adaptable to these genres. His special action tracks with his specific percussion and brass rhythm was one reason that the showdown of "Back To The Future" was so full of suspense. He is also one of the few composers who is also very good in the comedy genre, and his approach is similar to Marc Shaiman’s even though Shaiman is sometimes more sophisticated.

What makes Mouse Hunt unique, is Silvestri’s usage of the bassoon, an instrument that is not very often used as solo instrument in film music scores. For "Mouse Hunt" it works perfect and underlines the little feet of the mouse in his way through the house. This mouse theme is the only theme in the score, but Silvestri uses it in a very convincing way throughout the score and underscores the funny aspect with serious music, such as Elmer Bernstein did with his comedy music. Because of this approach, the funny scenes have an even better effect on the audience even though they are sometimes too much over the top.

The typical sense of this musical humour is the reason that the music is so enjoyable and much better than the movie really is. Fans of the composer seem to forget that Silvestri is not just good in his famous action tracks, he is great in his comedy score such as "Death Becomes Here" (1992) with a fabulous comedy-horror theme and in his most ambitious score "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"(1988).

Recommendations for listening are especially these tracks:

Funeral Prologue - wonderful gothic atmosphere

Dying Wish – because of the lovely melody, played on the strings and the clarinet

What are you doing – you will surprised what is happening in the middle of the track

Nail Gun – a great action piece, and one of the best scenes in the movie

Caesar’s Big Drag – one of the best tracks! (the Christopher Walken scene!)

Flamming Doo – great action piece, and one of the reasons I love Alan Silvestris composing style

And here one of the best scenes of the movie, have fun and watch the whole movie!

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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