Mighty Joe Young was originally released by RKO Radio Pictures in 1949. Produced
by the same studio that made King Kong, Mighty Joe Young is
described by Halliwell as a rather tired comic-sentimental follow-up to King
Kong with a tedious plot and variable animation but a few endearing
highlights. The new remake has not arrived so I cannot comment on its quality
and I have not noticed any reviews yet but if Horner's music is anything
go by, it should prove big on thrills. It is interesting to note from the
album booklet - sparse on information as usual - that the old well-loved
RKO trademark has been partially restored for this Walt Disney production
(that is without the 'Radio' component on the right hand side of the radio
mast which straddles the globe)
This album does little to dispel the disappointment of Horner's bland score
for Deep Impact in fact the usual Horner weaknesses manifest themselves
and, for this reviewer, there are too few strengths. The biggest disappointment
is the lack of a really memorable theme.
A recent article in Soundtrack magazine defended Horner's borrowings
making the point that all composers are influenced by other composers and
borrow from time to time; this is true and inevitable; however, when a composer
is so consistently accused of borrowing one is forced to take note and when
one is only too well aware, too much of the time, of such borrowings and
has a nagging feeling of "where have I heard that before" at too many other
points, notice must be taken of such criticism.
In this new Mighty Joe Young score the borrowings are, as usual,
frequently from Horner's own preceding scores. Reminders of the metallic
Titanic clashes are much in evidence and those Gaelic pipes occasionally
peer out. The choral music reminds one too much of John Williams's Amistad,
there are echoes of John Barry's Out of Africa, and there are those
clap-clap rhythms of The Truman Show.
On the credit side the music is often very thrilling and sometimes quite
overwhelming and scary. Undoubtedly it serves the screenplay very well in
screwing up tension and excitement. Horner's richly textured score, written
for a large orchestra includes the use of a vast array of drums - ethnic
and conventional - spread right across the sound stage to wonderful effect
with plenty of variety, and the sparingly used electronics nicely evoke the
sounds of the jungle. One of the most attractive cues is the relatively calm
"The Trees" which has an attractive veneer of primitive innocence and evokes
all the colour and life of the rain forest; again this is a tribute to Horner's
(or his orchestrators') evocative skills.
Once again Horner is generous with the quantity of music - its just a pity
that we don't hear something fresh and original that will engage our attention
and linger in our memories.