CD Review: Race To Witch Mountain

By • March 16, 2009

Composer: Trevor Rabin
Label: Hollywood Records
Suggested Retail Price: $9.99
Grade: B+

Among the ranks of rockers turned composers, few have had such a joyous sense of rhythm like former Yes-man Trevor Rabin. While his longhaired days might be gone, the flair with which he unleashes throbbing lines of percussion, guitar licks and catchy themes have the unbridled energy of any Yes stadium gig. And in the case of RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, it’s a voltage that’s just right for the sugar-jacked audience who are into the non-stop chases, Rock fisticuffs and effects eye candy of this Disney redo, which takes a somewhat gentle 70’s sci-fi kid’s adventure and pumps it up into something more akin to QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

But kid’s stuff this still is in a breathlessly fun way. And if you’re going to go the Bourne-Bond way in terms of blazing an old chestnut, then Trevor Rabin is certainly the man to bring in for the job. Developing his composing chops on the likes of ARMAGEDDON, ENEMY OF THE STATE and CON AIR, Rabin fully took off on his own with the suspensefully pulsating likes of SNAKES ON A PLANE, THE DEEP BLUE SEA and BAD BOYS II. Now he stands as one of action scoring’s most popular rhythmatists, while proving he can still wink at the furious silliness of it all with last year’s GET SMART.

Rabin’s back kicking it with The Rock again for RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, which proves to be one of his most breathlessly beat-heavy scores. And with its accentuated “sci-fi” use of electronics at the outset, MOUNTAIN isn’t so much music for a Disney reboot as it is a twenty-one gun salute to 80’s synth scoring, where composers like Harold Faltemeyer (TANGO & CASH) applied their pop instincts to soundtracks that were all about a fun, throbbing theme and heroic guitar licks. It’s a retro-listenability factor that makes MOUNTAIN even more of a kick than Rabin’s NATIONAL TREASURE scores for the studio, creating an ultra beat that catches every minutia of MOUNTAIN’s rapid-fire thrills, all with the enthusiasm of a DJ emceeing a dance-off.

That these particular ravers are a whoop-ass cab driver, E.T. teens, government drones and a Predator-esque “Siphon” only add to the score’s delirious fun. What’s better is that the theme-specific characters all stand out amidst the flurry of notes. MOUNTAIN’s evil military pursuers are given a propulsive chase theme, most impressively heard with the back up of sharp guitar chords and an agitated orchestra in the “Main Titles.” Their theme nervously pops in and out of the score in such cues as “Train Wreckage Survey,” “Tracking the E.B.E’s,” and “Burke’s Deal,” serving as a constant, evil kick in the ass to get the Rock and his alien charges moving along. Even gnarlier is the Siphon’s motif, a retro-batch of samples and dark strings that could have given Tron a run for his money. It growls through a synth respirator in “The Siphon Searches,” “Convention Escape” and “Into the Fridge,” where the majestic sound of alien pods are rudely crunched on by the Siphon’s harsh electronics, then blasted to paste in the ensuing action.

This kind of frantic movement rarely lets up in WITCH MOUNTAIN, but Trevor Rabin always keeps the chase interesting, and even more impressively, melodic. “Bump and Run” builds up a fun bit of bounce before “Jack and Kids Escape” with Bruckheimer-worthy flair, Rabin deftly swinging between samples and strings with each exploding car. In the climactic action cues “Tunnel Flight” and “Excess Baggage,” voices hammer in the excitement as Rabin’s electro-orchestral percussion reaches a fever pitch for a flight through Witch Mountain’s underground corridors, the kids’ triumphant orchestra signaling their seeming escape- all before the Siphon’s music makes a last dark stand inside the spaceship. It’s an all-hell breaks loose cue that typifies Rabin’s talent for jumping between cold, evil electronics to the swirling uplift of human strings, an excitement that’s pure rock and roll.

There’s not much down time in WITCH MOUNTAIN, but when the characters aren’t fleeing from agents and a killer robo-man, Rabin does his best to get the Disney brand of family-friendly emotion into the score. “Tell Mr. Wolf I Mean It” has fun with the Rock’s edgy guitar energy. Otherwise, Rabin lets the strings do the talking, from the cosmic wonder of “Make Me A Believer” to the kids getting a symphonically galactic send-off with “Long Goodbye.” In it, Rabin sweetly shifts from melancholy to the big, triumphant orchestral and choral sweep that usually accompanies overhead shots of earthlings giving a smiling farewell to their E.T. pals.

That this said visit is like comparing THE BOURNE SUPREMACY with the original’s REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM says something about the bold new direction that Disney is heading in their effort to appeal as much to the WWE crowd as sci-fi fans and adolescents who dig first person shooters more than Donald and Goofy. Yet it’s Trevor Rabin’s ability to get across an enjoyably light, toe-tapping brand of PG mayhem that helps keep this MOUNTAIN on a nobody’s really gonna-get-hurt course. His music’s thrills are pure, percussive popcorn. Not exactly nutritious if you want an old-school approach to action- but entertaining as heck if you can appreciate the new rock-style scoring that Trevor and his peers represent. MOUNTAIN is that hyper beat sound in its most unapologetically pure form, and all the more fun for it.

Climb the Rabin MOUNTAIN on iTunes here

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