Composer Marcelo Zarvos has only been in the business for a little over a decade, but he’s already got some pretty hefty credits to his name, including Hollywoodland, The Air I Breathe, HBO’s You Don’t Know Jack, and the upcoming Jodie Foster project The Beaver. Beastly is an interesting addition to his versatile resume, but it may fit in with the general theme here, which seems to be medium profile pictures with a targeted audience in mind. And Beastly, with Alex Pettyfer and High School Musical‘s Vanessa Hudgens is nothing if not a picture made for a targeted (tween) audience. The modern-day take on Beauty and the Beast didn’t make as big splash at the box office as expected, and was fairly torn apart by critics (currently a 21% rating on rotten tomatoes). While music doesn’t usually make or break a movie (particularly a movie of this pedigree), it is an undeniably important part of any movie and helps support the story being told. In that respect, both Marcelo Zarvos’ composition and the collection of soundtrack songs are part of that low rating by critics, and it’s not too difficult to understand why…
Starting with Zarvos’ work – while definitely an enjoyable collection of orchestrations in its own right, this 44-minute album never truly creates a unique world for itself, instead feeling continuously familiar throughout. It’s an 18-track supporting piece to a pre-determined emotional arc that even those unfamiliar with score albums have heard before. It’s doubtful that Zarvos is completely to blame for this – when you sign on to compose the music for a by-the-numbers teenage romantic drama, you’re not likely to expect much of an allowance for innovation or experimentation. Give us light-yet-touchingly-emotional moments (“Lindy’s Picture”), some youthful “coolness (“High School”) and a few dramatic crescendos (“The Curse Part 2,” “Finale”). Zarvos carefully manages all of these, mostly with a front-and-center piano and a few backup strings, and though it’s a score perfectly made for the film it supports, it’s not the kind of score that listeners will want to return to again and again. By delivering the product that best serves the film, Zarvos has also limited the audience for the score album.
The collection of music compiled for the soundtrack album creates a similar atmosphere of predictability, but almost by definition a soundtrack allows for more of a stand-alone identity than a score does. For the most part, a soundtrack is a collection of pre-existing songs compiled to support a film, whereas a score is created specifically for a film – it lives and dies with that film. So as a collection of music, this album may be a bit forced and overemotional, but the songs stand on their own without the film. Undeniably great tracks like Regina Spektor’s “On the Radio” (which opens the album) and Wenzel Templeton & Robert Pegg’s “Transatlanticism” along with arguably good tracks like Gersey’s “Crashing” and The Vines’ “Get Free” are good, enjoyable music, regardless of whether or not they are sandwiched in between grating tracks like Hanover Swain’s “Vanity” or Kristina and the Dolls’ “Be Mine.”
It may not be a fair comparison, considering the differing roles of a score and a soundtrack, but the soundtrack for Beastly boasts a more nuanced emotional side that the score simply doesn’t offer.
Music From the Motion Picture: B
Score From the Motion Picture: C+
Perfect For: Most females between the ages of 12 and 15
Stay Away if: You want something emotionally challenging