Pardon/Harold & Kumar ArriveWith the album cover prominently featuring Neil Patrick Harris on a unicorn and the film featuring two stoners on a trip to Amsterdam gone awry, imagine my surprise when I popped in this score and found actual action movie music. From the opening bars of the first track (the multi-titled “Ron Fox/Interrogation/Gitmo”), George S. Clinton’s score for Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay is all Die Hard action and Bourne Identity intrigue… though  it’s most comparable to Lalo Schifrin’s work on the Rush Hour movies, with its overblown sense of crescendos and rising action.

Composer George S. Clinton is no stranger to the action comedy genre, having worked on all three Austin Powers films and Beverly Hills Ninja as well. He’s also got a little stoner experience, working with the original pothead duo of Cheech & Chong on Still Smokin’ and The Corsican Brothers in the early ’80s. Unfortunately, this score does little to combine the two genres, instead leaning heavily on action alone. Perhaps I should fault my own biased expectations, but I kept waiting for at least a little bit of a hint that this score was for a slapstick stoner comedy. Aside from the Indian background vocals in “Unicorn Mushroom,” a few strumming banjoish sounds in the opening to “KKKp/Escape the KKK,” and the ’80s news sounding theme in “Hewitt Texas/Broken Heel/The Airport” there’s hardly a trace of the comedy that the film itself possesses.

I’m not trying to imply that all funny films require funny scores, or that a score should contain as many laughs as the film it comes from, but I tend to look for at least a trace of the humor in the film when I’m listening to a score. Clinton handles the action sequences well, and the staccato nature of most of the score keeps the plot and the story moving along, though there are few moments of down time (besides those that punctuate the more jumpy sequences). Clinton’s score works well on a tongue-in-cheek basis, and would almost work for a legitimate action film, but is more memorable of the aforementioned Rush Hour films.

Clinton is best in pieces like “Branded” that start out with a little twang and quickly morph into the action/adventure motif he’s established. The track immediately following, “Hewitt Texas/Broken Heel/The Airport” follows this up nicely, with some quiet, but hopeful rhythms that give the score the heart that is missing from earlier tracks… though the pulsing robotic beats of the track’s end are a bit surprising. It’s really the last third of the score (from “Unicorn Mushroom” on) that save this score from sounding like Rush Hour 4. By the end of the album, Clinton has managed to take us on a meandering and mixed up musical journey cleverly disguised as an action film. The track titles alone will give listeners something to remember. Just think, you could be asking your friends, “What did you think of the digiridoo on “Cockmeat Sandwich?”

Zach’s Rating: C+
Perfect For: Action/adventure fans
Stay Away if: You’re looking for a slapstick comedy score
Buy this on Itunes: “Hewitt Texas/Broken Heel/The Airport”

To purchase the score for Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, visit Amazon

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