Big Fat Liar
Film released by Universal (2002)
"But I've got your skateboard.."
No score soundtrack available.
one, 1'18" (1.79Mb at 192kbps) [1:26'18"-end]
Music clip two, 0'49" (1.12Mb at 192kbps) [20'35" ]
Jason is a schoolboy who lies all the time. After writing a story titled "Big fat liar", his paper is used by nasty Hollywood producer Wolf to make his next picture, and without the story, Jason cannot regain the trust of his parents. With his friend Kaylee, he travels to Hollywood to get it back, but finds his task a difficult one, and needs the help of other victims of The Wolf's spite.
It has always been easier to review the workings of Christophe Beck's less attractive scores, those scores which are submerged beneath pop songs or subject to identikit film projects that leave nothing for the composer to enhance other than the blatantly obvious. It comes as a frustration to the reviewer's schedule, therefore, when a Shawn Levy film comes along, because here is a director who is very evidently musically knowledgeable, demanding, and, perhaps most importantly, rather good at his job. Big Fat Liar is a case in point, with some perhaps unconscious nods to the first Burton/Elfman feature Pee Wee's Big Adventure. One can only imagine the spotting session, where the director explained exactly which style of music he found most fitted a particular scene, or how he wanted the score to shape the reaction of the audience in another. Thankfully, the director is also a very lucid speaker, which, for once makes the DVD commentary most illuminating, so rather than attempt to guess how exactly Chris Beck managed to pack such an unbelievable array of styles into his score, perhaps just this once we should let the director guide us along... See the Webmaster's additional 2.
It is very obvious from this evidence how well the two bounce off each other. The director views CB as "my composer", and Beck's response always seems to be nothing less than a 100% score, going through a catalogue of styles as per the director's wishes, but still sneaking in big tunes like the "BFL theme", which grows throughout the story (e.g. see 0:06'16", 1:00'22", 1:22'10"). Indeed this is the only theory one can legitimately accept for the lack of a soundtrack CD release for this film: the score matches the frenetic, ever changing pace of Levy's direction to the extent that it might well make a bewildering experience once extracted from its rightful place.
Webmaster's additional 1: the credits explored.
Christophe Beck is not the only composer credited for music in Big Fat Liar. At the end of the usual run of pop credits, cues titled "Disco chicken" and "Access Tinseltown" are noted as being by Douglas Romayne Stevens (credited as Douglas Stevens), whose professional relationship with CB stretches back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is also easy to spot the places where telling cues from John Williams scores are used for conscious or unconscious effect.
Webmaster's additional 2: the director's commentary
DVD counter readings are approximate. Clips at 64kbps (adequate for illustration). Commentary by Shawn Levy (director) and Jonathan Brown (cinematographer).
0:02'59" [Classroom scene]
Levy: The music in this scene - also something that I really - I think it just takes the scene to a new level. The scene played pretty well, but once Christophe Beck, my composer, came in and scored the thing, it really adds layer comedy that makes it that much better.
Brown: His score is amazing.
[Later in the scene, after the teacher is not taken in by a lie told by liar Jason (played by Frankie Muniz)... the music had paused as she thought about it, then restarts when she makes her mind up]
Levy: And again the music kindof creates holes, hits the jokes without being too in-your-face.
**CLIP: From 3'10: Underscore, but shows how it fits well to the shape of the dialogue
0:06'16" [A glimpse of the BFL main theme played by clarinetan early suburban stage.]
[see Ex.2 for an illustration of the theme at 1:00'22"; and 1:22'10" for a later clip of the theme in triumphant context]
0:07'00" [Jason is using a girlie bike to dash his essay-story 'Big Fat Liar' to school]
Levy: The music here is kind of intentionally cheesy in a sort of 80's synthy frenetic kind of way. I'm not sure why I asked Christophe Beck to do this but it felt right.
0:17'11" [Scene where the school bully prepares to meet Kaylee's (played by Amanda Bynes) granny]
Levy: Love the score here as well. Just kind of understated. Creates a sense of tone. The Rhodes organ here.
[N.B. The Fender-Rhodes piano was an electric keyboard designed by Harold Rhodes during the 1950s and early 1960s (using iron wire hit by hammers and amplified), and refined since this time by various builders.]
0:21'00" [The OTT shot of Oz-like Universal backlot]
Levy: This movie was about kid empowerment, was about wish fulfillment, so yes, the music's big, the visuals are big. We wanted that kind of spectacle... because that's what the kids are feeling...
[See Music Clip Two at the top of this page; Starts from 20'35"]
0:23'35" [Sneaking up to the Wolf's 'lair'. wolf is the name of the producer who has stolen Jason's idea for a new movie 'Big Fat Liar']
Levy: Again, the music here - Christophe giving us that kind of caper vibe in the music.
CLIP [Despite the dialogue, this is perhaps the clip that makes this year's Pink Panther such an obvious prospect]
0:26'21" [The Wolf, after stealing his story, 'accidentally' sets fire to it under Jason's helpless gaze, in order to destroy the evidence]
Levy: This was very fun. we had the kind of circus themed orchestral music hete, which I think works with the cartoonish nature of the beat.
CLIP [Only a short snippet is included here, but the cue as a whole is an exercise in mad-cartoon-orchestral-crescendo.]
0:28'15" [Kaylee passes on messages to a duped receptionist, adding insult to injury by touching her dazed nose]
Levy: Ding! The little shameless scoring of the nose-hit with the triangle.
[No clip added here, but the "triangle" sounds more like Chinese cymbal - a cheerier reverb. Beck tops it off with cheeky sliding strings.]
0:33'43" [Wolf's early morning blues]
Levy: And this music here - this music, it's kind of got that salsa/Latin vibe. It's not anything that we would have thought about, but my music editor Terry Wilson temped in something with that vibe, and I liked it so much that I had Chris Beck, my composer, emulate it.
CLIP [Scene starts at 0:33'32". Big band music, showing a similar flair to his writing for Buffy 6.07 "Once more with feeling". The complete cracking cue is included here, with apologies for the dialogue.]
0:39'27" [Phase two: Take down]
Levy: Now here we're into the Spy Kids - as it were - section. Y'know, a movie that I thought was really good in terms of its use of style and wish fulfillment. Y'know, going here with straight-up techno, and you'll hear a lot later, but I told Chris Beck I didn't want a conventional score. I wanted, y'know, kindof cool music.
0:40'10" [After a brief Wolf/Mr. Funny Bones monkey scene]
Levy: Again here the music on this next... love this slow build.. [snip].. and again the music is more Crystal Method [a group touted as 'America's answer to the Chemical Brothers'. Official site at http://www.thecrystalmethod.com] than John Williams, but I like that about the movie; and a lot of people have commented on the music and the fact that it has a range of style, which I love.
[N.B. No clip used here, because a good example occurs in the end credits (second half), as well as at ca.0:45'10]
0:42'31" [Not on commentary, but this is one of many stylistic movie music allusions in the score. As Wolf realises his hair and skin have been dyed, he screams, and the camera leaps back and away rom his villa. This spiky horror genre shot technique is accompanied by classic psycho strings from Beck.]
0:45'10" (ca.) [As the Wolf enters a wrong house to meet his child party doom, the music is a development of that from 0:39'27" and 0:40'10"]
Levy: Right here coming up is I think my favourite moment - right here: the triple speedramp shot, combined with the techno music. I just love it. [snip] Ahh, and the beat kicks in - I just think it's hot.
[Music is a similar style to that at the second half of the end credits suite]
0:56'20" (ca.) [Dodging between Jason in the kitchen and Wolf at his party, giving his big BFL speech for the crowd]
Levy: Something else about this scene - Chris Beck, my composer, once again - I'll just let you listen to the music for a sec. [Pause] The cross-cutting from Jason in the kitchen to the Wolf, kind of doing this almost preacher-like speech - I love how Chris Beck does two things: Not only does he kindof highlight that cross-cutting of two different world (the backstage and onstage world), but he really gets elegiac [snip] and the music becomes, like, Field of Dreams, like, y'know, James Horner horns, and really sweeping and really John Willimasy and scope, which fits the drama of Wolf's oration.
1:00'22" [Jason talks soberly over the phone to his dad]
Levy: I love everything about this. I think the score is really really nice; the movie doesn't get many chances to slow down.
[The BFL theme (first noted at 0:06'16) is given a piano arrangement]
1:10'08" [Helicopter scene]
[Levy comments about his decision to use "Right here right now" by Fat Boy Slim, and how it stayed with the scene from planning to screening. Presumably, then, no Beck score was planned here.]
[The following scenes trail the characters as they run from set to set at Universal, complete with appropriate music pastiches.]
1:13'14" [In a Wild West scene, Beck shaves close to Morricone's iconic The good, the bad and the ugly music.]
1:13'48" [The chase lands in a Christmas snow scene]
Levy: And again listen to the music - the sampling of a Christmas song, but synthetically kind of screwed with.
1:14'09" [The chase leads to a Mexican set]
Levy: And here we're into a kind of Mexico [told you!]. The music here sounds like a gypsy king song or something like that. This was ALL written and recorded for this movie by my composer Chris Beck - it's fantastic. ...Just love this cue.
[This music is re-used in full in the first half of the end credits suite. Most likely this is what is end-credited as "Spanish Backlot," performed and co-composed by Jalme Clero]
1:14'59" [As the chase progresses, the camera shifts to the BFL set with the studio boss awaiting his producer.]
Levy: Love what the music does here. I literally told Chris that I love the basic formula of all kind of rave or techno music, which is the build, the drawback and then the kick back into the beat - here it comes. [Back to the chase] ... Bam! It just comes in, it's like uh-uh [imitates the siren-like honks of the scene], it's got just such force.
[See the end credits suite, second half]
1:22'10" [After the triumphant BFL screening, Jason is clapping, and we are about to find out what happened to Wolf]
Levy: Big orchestral out.
CLIP This clip starts earlier, during the "BFL" movie screening, in order to catch the John Williamsesque arrangement of the BFL theme.
1:22'50" [As the credits roll, Levy gushes over the music supervisor's find of a big hit song to allow the audience to leave on a high note. This song is "Can you move it like this" by Baha Men]
1:26'18"-end [After the pop song, Beck is permitted to reprise music from earlier in the film. The first half uses Spanish Backlot cue co-composed and performed by Jalme Clero (see 1:14'09"); the second half shows the techno style as used at 0:45'10" etc.]
[See Music Clip One at the top of this page]
Webmaster's additional 3: Burtonesque
Possible Burton/Pee-Wee influences: exploring studio sets and wardrobe, spoiled film makers, stolen items, film-within-a-film, movie references, cartoonish colours...
Film music credits