Reviews - Flubber

Review #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: * * * *

Review # 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 etc.
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 are jaw-dropping.
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: * * * *

Review #3 by Josh James

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.

Review #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 scores.
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

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