Pros: A perfect match of music to the movie – and great outside of it too!
Cons: Really short tracks under a minute bug me
The Bottom Line: A good time with some mild inspiration. Should I have expected any less from Danny Elfman? (no, not really)
When I walked into the movie Alice in Wonderland, I wondered just how Danny Elfman was going to handle the music. Seeing as Danny always does the music for Tim Burton. It's just a fact of life. But usually Danny does dark and brooding (and does it well). Not to say that he hasn't done more upbeat and badass stuff (Spider-Man and Planet of the Apes). But this was a whole different kettle of fish. Weird yet fun. Dark yet colorful.
Ah, Danny boy. He pulled it offer wonderfully. It's interesting that the total time for this CD is just around 50 minutes, surprisingly short, but it doesn't leave you feeling like there is anything lacking. He hits all the right notes and mixes up something totally worthy of listening to multiple times (I've had this soundtrack two days and I've played it 5 or 6 times now I think). I see-sawed about doing a detailed track-by-track review, but finally decided to go for it. However, they're going to be brief due to Danny's repeated use of the main theme (but not to his detriment - just keep reading).
1.) Alice's Theme (5:07) The main theme that you get from the moment the movie starts - except then I didn't realize that there were actual words in the chorus. Heh. Nice choice, Danny. I little surprise I didn't see coming and I find very enjoyable. "Oh Alice dear, where have you been?"
2.) Little Alice (1:34) Soft and sweet with music box notes and woodwinds and hints of the main theme. 3.) Proposal / Down The Hole (2:58) Starts ofsimple and proper before tumbling down the rabbit hole in a rather violent way. 4.) Doors (1:51) Creepy, tip-toeing around music with a few wheedling strings. 5.) Drink Me (2:48) More creepy uncertainness with the strings winding down and up as Alice gets smaller and larger. 6.) Into the Garden (0:50) Ta da! Welcome to Wonderland, quiet slightly uncertain/creepy style. 7.) Alice Reprise #1 (0:26) A short short version of track 1. 8.) Bandersnatch (2:41) Dark, thundering, and dangerous in every sense of the word. 9.) Finding Absolem (2:41) Mysterious and mystical with even a little sense of awe thrown in as we talk to the hookah-smoking caterpillar. 10.) Alice Reprise #2 (0:38) A short short version of track 1. 11.) The Cheshire Cat (2:07) Of course, the Cheshire Cat needs his own not-exactly-creepy-but-still-odd musical feeling. Strings creep around in the mist...friend or foe? 12.) Alice and Bayard's Journey (4:04) Starts off slowly before rolling up into an adventurous journey across Wonderland - do I hear a rescue mission in the works? 13.) Alice Reprise #3 (0:23) A short short version of track 1. 14.) Alice Escapes (1:07) Quick and dramatic. 15.) The White Queen (0:36) Brief and delicate - just like the queen. 16.) Only A Dream (1:25) Similar to track 2; quiet music box tones and a little sadder but with a tinge of hope at the end. 17.) The Dungeon (2:18) A dismal place to be, but even in the dungeon there may be a few useful things lurking around... 18.) Alice Decides (3:14) A dramatic piece that starts low and slowly builds to a great marching-to-war bit complete with pipe organ morsels and brassy goodness. 19.) Alice Reprise #4 (1:02) A short short version of track 1. 20.) Going To Battle (2:42) Time to do some fighting! Fast, not too furious, but with some ready-get-em power. 21.) The Final Confrontation (1:41) Frankly I think this track and the previous one should just be stuck together. We finish the battle and reach the relaxed conclusion. 22.) Blood of the Jabberwocky (2:37) The happy yet somehow a little bit sad finish, at times with just the strings able to speak. After all Alice, you could stay... 23.) Alice's Returns (3:14) A relaxed song with more "normal" melodies if one might say. But of course, Alice's theme has to sneak in there near the end - and so does the chorus. All with a very positive feel to it. 24.) Alice Reprise #5 (2:55) A final short version of track 1 - though without words this time. Well, sort of. "La la la la la la...Alice, oh, Alice!"
Danny Elfman uses the main Alice theme throughout this CD, but he's a seasoned enough composer to know when to use it full out and when to drop it in favor of battle music or other questionable moments. Even then, sometimes he sneaks it back in there, but he knows just how to manipulate it so even though you know you're hearing the main theme again, it doesn't get tiresome or repetitive. And as you can see, the reprise pops up 5 times throughout the CD, but each time it's just slightly different with only a few tweaks here in there in the notes or the lyrics and though you would think it ought to be repetitive, it's a fun reminder of how great the main theme is.
Let's face it, Danny knows what he's doing. What I love about this is that even though I can hear him in it, it isn't like other things he's done. The difference is that though he obviously has the same style (you know it's Danny Elfman) for many of his works, he doesn't use the same notes or melodies over and over the way other composers do (for example, as much as I love James Horner, I can hear Titanic, Troy, and even Braveheart in the Avatar soundtrack. It's kind of annoying).
I had great time. I love his use of chorus in this and the way he always keeps things going and then slows them down in just the right spots. It's one of those CDs that matches the movie wonderfully yet still manages to stand on its own when being listened to separately. I do think there are tracks that could (and should) be combined, and I've never been a fan of really short tracks, though I actually think I'll make an exception here for the random Alice reprises. I do wish it had just a *bit* more meat on its bones, but I'm content to indulge with what I have.
(All I need now is a second movie so Alice and Tarrant can get together. Oh come on, I know I'm not the only one thinking it.)