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CD Review: Mulan 2



Mulan 2 ***

JOEL MCNEELY, VARIOUS

Walt Disney 61257-7

11 tracks- 31:46

I'm fond of the original Mulan, both film and film score. When I originally learned that Disney had yet again sought to capitalize on its feature film's success by churning out a direct to video sequel, I was repulsed by the obvious financial whore that the studio has become. However, in a moment of sentimental weakness, I rented the DVD and hoped for the best. Sadly, the film is as inane as I had feared. Watered-down characters, simpler yet more abundant songs and worse, a re-hash of "A Girl Worth Fighting For" with modified lyrics, capped off by a silly plot-line that conveniently eschews logic as well as continuity in its final act.

However, the one consistent element from the original is the quality of underscore. McNeely took over the reins for the sequel and has done an admirable job, employing instruments such as the erhu and bawa to effectively conveys the landscape of early China. And like his predecessor, Jerry Goldsmith, he finds a balance between western harmonies and eastern melodies, creating a palpable score much that's more engaging away from its source. Unfortunately, like Goldsmith, McNeely finds his original underscore underrepresented on the CD. And worse, the underscore is mixed in and around the incredibly atrocious songs, making re-programming a necessity.

McNeely's score itself as mentioned employs some similar intervalic motives from Goldsmith's, in particular the Imperial Chinese motif as heard on "The Journey Begins" before it gives way to a beautiful rendition of a new main theme. One of the differences in McNeely's sequel music is that it is far more reflective of some of the physical action that is found in the film. Obviously this has been the staple of animated scoring for the past 50 years, but it's a little uncharacteristic of the sound established by Goldsmith's original. And McNeely's choice of piano is an odd one. The instrument is so identified with domestic westernism that it sounds out of place when featured here. Luckily, its fleeting appearance on "In Love and In Trouble" is followed by a clever if not slightly obvious Rambo motif, no doubt another nod to Goldsmith. And one doesn't have to strain to hear it. I caught the quote in the film, not on the soundtrack.

Aside from the less-than-attractive sequencing on the CD, my only complaint is that McNeely, like John Debney, made his career on sounding like other composers. Yes, he's got compositional chops to spare. But because many of his formative scoring years were spent writing these scores, it's hard to get an idea of his own stylistic voice. It seems as though his reputation preceded him on this project as it's obvious that the producers wanted a Goldsmith-styled score. To his credit, McNeely has produced a rousing, exciting and overtly melodic work.     -- David Coscina

We hope you enjoyed this July 4th review of Mulan 2!

MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com

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