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The Last 2001 CD Review: The Musketeer

The Musketeer ***


Decca 440 014 920-2

17 tracks - 49:41

The Musketeer is one of those Hollywood high-concept things that admittedly sounds pretty neat on paper: apply Hong Kong fight choreography to the classic Alexandre Dumas tale of the heroic quartet of French freedom fighters. But like most of those neat-sounding ideas, the fun drains away with every finger that gets inserted into the pie, and by the time it hit screens, it was a casualty of the unfortunate Tinseltown tendency to water down ideas by trying to pander to perceived mass-audience tastes.

How, then, to review David Arnold's score? It's exactly what you would expect for such a film, and that's partly the problem -- it's basically a critic-proof piece of music, designed to be exactly what the film needs, and nothing more. And for what it is, it isn't bad. Arnold knows the 19th-century orchestral idiom inside and out, and at the very least, it sounds like he enjoyed himself. The theme for the heroic D'Artangan is catchy and infectious in the grand ol' Korngold style, and it pops up just enough throughout the score one thinks that you may not need to take the whole affair very seriously.

But then the rest of the score unspools, and it becomes apparent that Arnold is working in just one gear -- Big. There's the Big Hero Theme, the Big Action Cues and the occasional Soft Romantic Moment (Scored in the Key of Big). Arnold is pretty good at the splashy action stuff, and his cue titles seem to indicate he was enjoying himself immensely ("Fight Inn," "Jailhouse Ruck"). But these days, a little of this kind of thing goes longer than it used to, and by the time you hit the Big Climactic Cues ("Scaling the Tower," "Ladder Fight"), there's the inevitable sense of deja vu, seeing as Arnold's been basically laying on the same musical approach throughout -- just louder this time.

I liked Arnold's themes, cheesy and annoyingly straightforward as they are, and I appreciated his sense for the musical style that the film required of him; he gives a trendy, mediocre film the sheen a sheen of professionalism and panache that it really doesn't deserve. But I do wonder what he'd do if he was given the chance to do the same material differently. I'd like to believe that the results would be spectacular, and I'd love to be proven right about that.  -- Jason Comerford

The Musketeer would like to wish you a Happy New Yearís Eve!

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