December 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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  DECCA 440-016-192-2   [43:19]


Already oft compared to Thomas Newman's overrated tinkling for "American Beauty", Edward Shearmur's crinkling bit of minimalist schmaltz for "K-Pax" possesses more artistry to capture one's attention but lacks the dramatic edge to hold it. It is New Age music, crossed with genuine quirkiness and an occasional rogue attitude that belongs in sweltering nightclubs, the type frequented by the perpetually spaced out.

"K-Pax" follows the challenge and mystery of a mental institution patient named Prot (Kevin Spacey), who claims to be from the planet of the film's title. His psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges), confronts the question of whether Prot is delusional, or truly an inhabitant from 1,000 light-years away. Of course others in the ward take the matter just as one might expect.

The scoring approach to this tale presents a passable main theme, and ephemeral measures of the score are quite good. The orchestral uplift within 'Constellation Lyra' is warming, as is the electronic mystique in 'Bluebird' and several other tracks. The throbbing digital rhythms that dominate the score are sometimes luminous. Yet the positive aspects and innovations of the score amount to quick novelties. How do they fit as a larger musical work? Is this a structured score, or is it directed toward moment-by-moment atmosphere? Shearmur seems to want both, and oscillates one technique at the expense of the other. Thematic ideas are solidified, enjoyed, and then abruptly dropped or demeaned. This is not a good score; this is the demo disc for a good score.

For example, the pulsating mentioned above occurs most vibrantly in 'Prot Missing', but it repeats its point so superficially that even the drama that can rise from repetition is a no-show. What you hear is all you get.

Possessing un-mined potential, "K-Pax" is a strong contender for an Underachievement of the Year award. To the degree that soundtracks can be used as quick fixes for quenching one's musical thirst, this album is above the average. At least it has ideas, shallow though they may be. But as an addendum to filmusic presentation or simply as solid listening material, it fails to carry out its promises.

Jeffrey Wheeler


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