By Charlie Brigden
After what seems like an age, John Powell is back. After making his name (and influencing a whole genre) with his scores to the Bourne movies, and the universal acclaim of his music for HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, he’s been quiet for the last year but now he’s returning with two scores for animated productions. But while …DRAGON 2 will be coming later this year, first we have his score to Blue Sky’s RIO 2.
RIO 2 takes the urban parrot from the first one and sends him to the Amazon rainforest where, from the look of the trailer, he meets a lot of irritating people/animals. Thusly, Powell’s music has a Brazilian flavour, although thankfully it’s “inspired” rather than ripping off ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ for an hour, with contributions from local artists Carlinhos Brown and Milton Nascimento, as well as the band Uakti. And it works well, kicking off the party flavour straight from the start with a fun samba-style version of the 20th Century Fox Fanfare.
Powell does well in combining the geographical tones with the sweeping style he seems to have picked for his animated movies, and what a style it is. He seems to have this innate ability to pull out these great little catchy melodies that duel throughout the score with the Brazilian influences. While this creates a fun mood for the whole piece, when it counts he goes back to his own, such as the wonderful little woodwind in ‘Over The Falls’ and the big brass moments in ‘Breakfast In Rio’. There’s an ace brass trill in ‘Fireworks On The Roof’, and ‘Escorted To The Clan’ soars with a lovely melody.
It’s not all peaches and cream, with the darker moments of ‘Red Bullies’ and the tension of the lead-up to the climax of ‘Tantrums Lead To Explosions’, but even in those moments there’s a sense of much-needed fun. My only real issue is that it’s not hugely memorable, at least compared to DRAGON. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a fine listen and Powell’s command of the orchestra is refreshing compared to some of his colleagues, but it hasn’t really stayed with me since listening to it. But maybe that’ll change.
RIO 2 is out now from Sony Classical