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Monster Mutt by Chris Walden

Monster Mutt

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Monster Mutt (Soundtrack) by Chris Walden










Monster Mutt (Soundtrack) by Chris Walden

Monster Mutt
Composed by Chris Walden
Promotional Release (2010)

Rating: 7/10

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“As stereotypical as this score is, I can't really put my finger on why this album doesn't feel more pedestrian to me. It would have been easy for this music to fall back into a colorless background, but it doesn't.”

Cartoonish Warm Fuzzies
Review by Helen San

MONSTER MUTT is an independent, straight-to-DVD, slapstick family comedy about a giant dog. Max is a family pet who was kidnapped and turned into a monster dog as a weapons experiment by a nefarious laboratory. The French translation of the title, "Honey, I Blew Up the Dog," says it all. The only thing is, as an indie project, they didn't have a large special effects budget. The giant dog is played by a guy in a dog suit. In this day and age, that is quite a throwback. Perhaps "vintage" is another way to describe this film.

Without the CGI that we are all spoiled on, the music has to really help sell the story. And indeed, it does. CHRIS WALDEN is a German composer who has worked mostly in German TV movies and series. He is a relatively unknown composer in a relatively unknown movie. My expectations, to be honest, were not very high. I quickly found MONSTER MUTT to be delightful and inviting.

MONSTER MUTT is a straightforward, orchestral score of the family comedy genre. I immediately thought of countless JOHN DEBNEY or DAVID NEWMAN comedies that now blend into each other in my head. To be sure, MONSTER MUTT is simple, with fewer instruments and layers than DEBNEY ever had. But the result feels clean and uncluttered. It says what it means, and it means what it says. If you read the track titles while listening to the music, you know exactly what is happening. You don't even need to watch the movie.

Main Titles (1) opens with a propulsive, ominous rhythm (no doubt foreshadowing the "mad science" experiment) that quickly dissolves into the main theme of playful piccolo, marimba, and triangles, with short phrases of old-fashioned cartoon. It sets the tone for the movie and leaves the audience with no doubt that this is not just a comedy, but a comedy for kids.

A good many tracks in this score are cartoonish. You can hear the slapstick and the tip-toeing, such as in Boy with Ice Cream (9), Broom Fight (15), or Max Breaks Out (17). Maybe the music is a bit xylophone-heavy, but it is appropriate for this type of film.

Mixed in with the cartoon is some seriously artful suspense as well, heard in Max's Transformation (4), Noise from the Backyard (6), or Surprise Visit in the Lab (8). A pleasant gem hidden amongst the suspense cues is Fire Rescue (20), a dramatic action track that includes the synthesized rhythms that I am partial to. Full of brooding nail-biting and heroic theater, it packages a more grown-up depth and a nice contrast to the aforementioned cartoon.

Looking for Max (2), which is later reprised (23), is a sweet, heartfelt piano theme that is amongst the best on the album. I liked the quieter, dramatic cues best, such as Dad Brought Pizza (5), Water (13), and Monster Puppy (22). It is the kind of music that endears you to the characters, even if you have only heard them and never seen them.

As stereotypical as this score is, I can't really put my finger on why this album doesn't feel more pedestrian to me. It would have been easy for this music to fall back into a colorless background, but it doesn't. None of the tracks get less than three stars from me. The score seems carefully crafted, as if there is no superfluous or wasted note. There are repeated themes, but they do not feel repetitive. I can hear a lot of feeling and energy, which reminds me of the emotion portrayed by romantic masters such as Rachel Portman or Rolfe Kent. I am actually tempted to think of MONSTER MUTT as a "PORTMAN/KENT-on-a-budget" or "DEBNEY-lite." Here is another instance of wishing we could see what the composer can do with a bigger budget or bigger screen.

MONSTER MUTT is a surprisingly likeable score that captures all the different genres in a kid flick—and then some. It was an unexpected pleasure to listen to, especially because it was so predictable. Because there are no resounding themes, this may not be as enjoyable to new soundtrack fans. But to old score nuts like me, it is nice to hear something that has been done 10,000 times before, but is still poetic in its own way.

Rating: 7/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Main Title 2:40  ****
2 Looking for Max 1:03  ****
3 School is Out 1:31  ***
4 Max's Tranformation 2:19  ***
5 Dad Brought Pizza 1:59  ***
6 Noise from the Backyard 3:04  ***
7 Ashley and Dad 1:28  ***
8 Surprise Visit in the Lab 2:18  ***
9 The Boy with Ice Cream 1:55  ***
10 Max in the Night 1:27  ****
11 Anybody Out There 1:27  ***
12 The Vacuum Cleaner 1:14  ***
13 Water 2:40  ****
14 The Garage door 2:06  ***
15 Broom fight 1:24  ***
16 Max at the Vet 2:53  ***
17 Max Breaks Out 2:18  ***
18 Max Is Hungry 3:02  ***
19 Break in at the Vet 3:13  ***
20 Fire Rescue 4:56  *****
21 Lab fight 5:27  ***
22 Monster Puppy 3:30  ****
23 Looking for Max (Reprise) 1:03  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 54 minutes  


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