#1 by the Groovy Yak
"Can Danny Elfman write a mambo?"
I know that's the question that's been on my mind for the last few years.
Ok, well maybe I'm lying, but I've always admired how Elfman can embrace
so many different musical styles. In Elfman's score to Flubber, the mambo
is the style of music that drives the entire score. This Latin Jazz genre
is something new for Elfman, and he handles it like he had spent his life
in Cuba. Each score that Elfman has written these past few years has been
a refreshing change from the last one. The rock and spy-feel of Men in
Black contrasted the strict march feel of Mars Attacks! and now the mambo
is another contrast from Men in Black. Flubber is fresh and by far, one
of the most lively scores that I've ever heard. (Even for an Elfman score.)
Yet, I can't believe the number of different elements from Elfman's earlier
scores that pop up in this score. There's the theremin from Mars Attacks!,
the "boom-chick-boom-chick" accompaniment from Beetlejuice,
little percussive nuances from Mission: Impossible, the piano-driven melodies
of Extreme Measures, the use of vibraphone in Batman Returns, and lots
of other elements from other scores. But, these quotes of other scores
aren't necessarily bad. As a matter of fact, I enjoy being able to pick
out Elfmanish characteristics. And, if all of this talk of self-repetition
is getting you down, take pleasure in the fact that are tons of new Elfman
sounds to get you completely and utterly enraptured in this score.
There are two mambo tracks (8 and 12, if
you couldn't tell from the titles) that will knock ones socks off. Elfman
tips his hat to the mambo master Tito Puente. The trumpet playing on this
CD is beyond phenomenal. It really reminds me of the music of Stan Kenton
and his band. The wackiness of this score really fits the tone of the
score nicely. There is a nice main theme, however, that counters all of
the craziness. I'd also like to give some praise to Danny's star singer,
Elin Carlson. She has some nice solos on Mambo del Flubber, where Danny
plays around with her voice. (similar to what Eric Serra did with the
Diva's voice in The Fifth Element.) The score has a few beautiful moments
(track 13- Remarkable and track 14- Weebo's Death). There's also some
extremely exciting tracks (track 15- Revenge, track 16- Airborne).
All in all, Danny Elfman fans will not
be disappointed with Flubber. Everything that people have loved about
Elfman shows up at one point or another in this score. And hopefully,
this score might cause others to join in on the already quite large Danny
Elfman conga line. So, getting back to my earlier question. The answer
is, "Yes! Danny Elfman CAN write a mambo!!"
Rating: * * *
# 2 by Ian Davis
A friend of mine saw Flubber and thought
it "direly plotted and acted rubbish"--and that was enough for
me. I'm determined to avoid this film like the plague just in case it
ruins the fabulous CD of music Elfman has written. Who needs a film when
the soundtrack is so vivid (and the cue title so helpful) that you could
probably conjour up more gloop in your mind than a director could with
green special FX.
Having thus convinced myself, I feel vindicated
in recommending Flubber to any Elfman fan, interested first-timer and
the bloke I met at the bus stop the other morning. This is one of the
composer's most accessible recent scores, as he takes a break from the
thicker dissonances of Extreme Measures, The Frighteners, Mars Attacks!
and MIB. Elfman is firmly back in Beetlejeuce territory but from a retrospective
angle that allows him to take advantage of recent experience in midi recording,
complex percussive textures and rhythms, vocal sampling, theramin writing
The result is an all-stops-pulled luminous
score which is, according to my friend, vastly superior to the film. In
this instance--where the FX are most likely the only thing you'll be missing--I
think the score is just about able to satisfy on its own merit. This isn't
the case with all Elfman (much of MIB is arguably a case in point) and
I certainly woudn't advise my words be taken as law. But here the music
might just as well be in modern symphonic poem territory--with Mickey
Mouse music and the odd funky set-piece mambo thrown in for good measure.
[Added points of interest to Elfman fans:
1) Recorded sound overall is fantastic!
Try listening to track 12 with headphones--the antiphonal/stereo effects
2) Warning! This score is often dangerously
cute. This is effected as much by the use of high instrumentation--such
as piccolo, soprano (?) recorder, smoochy strings and high tinking piano--as
the tunes composed. However Elfman expertly throws in liberal doses of
charm and comedy in order to keep the stomach from churning on the sugar.
3) The mambo may be Flubber's piece de
resistance (just as the march is in Mars Attacks!) but do note the ever-so
brief merry-go-round waltz at the beginning of track 17 and glimpses of
wedding march music elsewhere.
4) Surely Elfman was aware of Serra's sampled
voice in The Fifth Element. It was so shakily done there that I'm sure
Elfman is just taking the Donald when he puts his own singer to the test.
The result just isn't mean't to sound real. (Am I being too obvious here?).
Rating: * * * *
Flubber does exude Elfman. The opening
theme, which introduces the Flubber theme (which is heard continually
throughout the film as the dominate theme or as the undercurrent of other
themes) , is lighthearted as it should be. There are many nice moments
in Flubber, such as track 8, Mambo in the Sky, and track 1, the Main Title.
I really enjoyed track 17, the Closing Credits, which is a seamless blend
of all the movie's different melodies.
Hats off to the Mambo del Flubber (I'll
give Elfman credit just for calling it "Mambo del Flubber"!)
which is all it's cracked up to be with brilliant horn sounds and a beat
that could get any piece of green goo on its feet!
I will say,though, that I heard some definate
sounds resembling Home Alone in there. Maybe I was just hearing things.
All in all, Flubber is worth the money
though because, well, its Elfman and frankly that's all I need.
#4 by the Texas Ranger
Annoying - Causing Vexation or extreme irritation;
to be troublesome. SEE: Flubber.
The Good: The CD cover has pretty colors
on it (if you like green). Honestly, there are only a couple of good moments
on the CD, including the flight of the car (Airborne, which has a Batman
Returns/Nightmare Before Christmas feel).
The Bad and the Ugly: Unlike Ian Davis,
I had the misfortune of watching this most sloppy of sappy films. I suppose
I'm the odd one out because I feel Elfman added little to whatever enjoyment
there could have been in the film. In fact, I feel his music added to
the sheer annoyance of the movie. The problem stems from the fact that
Elfman was more or less forced to choose a Mambo motif. Now the question
is - "Can Danny Elfman do Mambo?" The answer is - yes. Yet, this stirs
another question - "Does this mean Flubber is any good?" The answer is
- absolutely not.
I borrowed the CD from a friend awhile back,
only to find that it was more annoying than enjoyable. In fact, I returned
it to him the next day. The problem boils down to one of preference. Obviously,
the other reviewers on this site loved it - and I'm glad they did. Since
I don't see myself as representing the norm (although I challenge anyone
to define "normal"), it must obviously be a matter of personal taste.
I have a problem, and I think I have found the source of that problem
- I HATE THE MAMBO!
Therefore I write this review for those
who hate Mambo in any way, shape, or form. Heed my advice - stay away
from this one at all costs (unless you want to experience that same wonderful
feeling that can be accomplished by listening to "It's a small world after
all" for 24 hours straight). It is just too annoying to even contemplate!
In Flubber, Elfman pulls out all the stops.
There's a bit of everything in this score, which provides listeners with
a wide array of Elfman signatures. Unfortunately, there's little more
beyond that. In essence, the score is more of a collection of tried and
true "Elfmanisms" all pasted together in an aggravating theme. Unfortunately,
even the amazing complexity of the score cannot save it from the obnoxiously
sappy/cute undertones that Elfman establishes for the Disney film. This
really aggravates me, especially considering that I've been longing for
Elfman to return to his orchestral majesty/complexity of his pre-1996
On another note - the music's relation with
the film was not wretched, but it wasn't great either. Many seem to call
this the next Beetlejuice, which I have trouble with. For while I remained
indifferent to Beetlejuice on the CD release, I still acknowledge that
it was a revolutionary score, and still one of Elfman's absolute finest.
Unfortunately, I don't see that in Flubber. This score was not revolutionary,
nor highly memorable. I feel, like so many recent Elfman scores, that
is was total waste of talent. Any composer with a basic understanding
of Mambo could have written this score. It surely doesn't require any
of Elfman's expertise. In fact, the score was so loud and quirky, that
it merely made the film less enjoyable (not that it was a great film to
begin with). Of course, I'm sure many will scream - "So was Beetlejuice!"
The problem is, Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks, and MIB all offered something
new to Elfman's quirky style. In this case, merely being quirky doesn't
cut it, even for an Elfman score. Flubber is merely a contract score which
never deviates far enough from its Mambo motif to satisfy my need for
that pure Elfmanesque sound, despite the signatures. Of course, this is
a contract score made with the insufferably evil empire that is Disney.
Still, it's a shame to see such good talent wasted on such schmaltz.
Ranger's Result: If you like Mambo, go for
it! If not, then avoid this one like a Slim Whitman compilation! It's
unbearably annoying, and a total waste of talent. Elfman added to the
overall misery of the film. Hopefully, Elfman's next Disney film score
will be better (although I'm not counting on it).
Note: Why is it a struggling scientist can
invent a robot that would make Bill Gates drool with envy, and yet, place
all of his time and effort in a pile of Mamba dancing goo?
Music as heard in the film: * *
out of 4 stars
Music as heard on the CD: *
out of 4 stars