Illumination (Formerly Illumination Entertainment) have carved out quite a niche for themselves in the animation world. While not as critically acclaimed as fellow studios DreamWorks (Kung-Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon) or Pixar (Wall-E, Toy Story), they have nevertheless produced film after film that has met with box office success. Audiences flock to them while critics complain that their films are simplistic and their plots spartan, appealing to the lowest common denominator.
This mindset of “eh, good enough”, sadly, seems to extend to the soundtrack for their latest offering, a retelling of Dr Seuss’ classic tale of Christmas grumpiness and acceptance – The Grinch. Composer Danny Elfman has unfortunately brought us a musical offering as ultimately mundane and forgettable as the film it accompanies. Nothing about it could be described as bad; nor could any part of it be described as exceptional. In keeping with what appears to be Illumination’s mindset, the music here is simply serviceable. It has a job to fill, and it does it, no more or less.
Danny Elfman is more than capable of producing truly memorable music. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, Big Fish, Darkman (to name but a few) are all testament to his talents, but this is not Elfman at his best. This is Elfman producing just enough to get the job done. Even after repeated listens there are simply no standout tracks on offer here, nothing that a listener will be humming along with, or afterwards, no earworms that demand more than one listen. In fact, for a film ostensibly set at Christmas, there is little to be found in the way of specific Christmas themes, melodies or instruments.
READ MORE: The Grinch – Film Review
With the exception of ‘Christmas in Whoville’, ‘Welcome Song/Forlorn’, ‘Welcome to Christmas’ and ‘First Christmas’, the remaining 21 tracks are all what has come to be expected from a “traditional” Danny Elfman soundtrack, most directly bringing to mind comparisons to Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory rather than anything related to Christmas. There are the usual chirpy choirs and up-tempo strings, the occasional veering off into something more rock ‘n’ roll flavoured with fast guitars and wailing trumpets but none of it stands out, none of it makes an impression.
The music on offer here could have come from almost any Tim Burton (or Tim Burton-esque) film from the last 20 years. There is nothing that says “You are listening to the soundtrack to The Grinch“, no repeated motifs to allow identification of specific characters or events, nothing to really recommend at all, in fact, not even a nod to the classic Chuck Jones version from 1966 with its now-iconic ‘You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch’.
The faintest of praise that could be given is that this particular soundtrack is unlikely to cause ear trauma or inter-cranial bleeding. A bad soundtrack from a great composer and one for only the most die-hard of collectors.