Film scores

Soundtrack review: Central Intelligence (Theodore Shapiro and Ludwig Göransson – 2016)

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“Central intelligence” is a story that follows a one-time bullied geek, Bob (Dwayne Johnson), who grew up to be a lethal CIA agent, coming home for his high school reunion.  Claiming to be on a top-secret case, Bob enlists the help of former “big man on campus,” Calvin (Kevin Hart), now an accountant who misses his glory days.  But before the staid numbers-cruncher realizes what he’s getting into, it’s too late to get out, as his increasingly unpredictable new friend drags him through a world of shoot-outs, double-crosses and espionage that could get them both killed in more ways than Calvin can count. A buddy cop comedy needed an odd couple of composers and we get the unlikely pairing of the veteran Theodore Shapiro and the guy who brought Rocky back to life Ludwig Göransson.

I know I am exaggerating but one of my strange pet peeves is that I frown at a score that’s made of crumbs, meaning cues shorter than two minutes. Here we have a 43 minutes long made of 30 cues and this worries me. Can the composers develop themes in these conditions? The way these very short cues work is by not getting overly complex and sophisticated. The composers get away with warm and lovely little inserts like the guitar in “Robbie” and the repetitive hip hop like beats in other themes. This way the cues don’t feel shortened or cut of but like small natural pieces of the same puzzle.

Earlier in 2016 Theodore Shapiro blew a score like “Zoolander no 2” out of the park by going all in and making it more spectacular and meaningful than the movie demanded. This time, both him and Ludwig Göransson had the music match the tone and feel of the movie and this means somehow sacrificing the standalone listening experience for the sake of the in context experience.

I connect very easily with gems like “Sleepover”; this kind of light and relaxing guitar shorts work for me. Fun action moments like “Office escape” and “Stop the car” also make for an enjoyable listen even without seeing the movie.  Not having huge expectations from this score also helps as I can enjoy the lighter side of film music. I feel as if I am listening to the trailer for a very fun score. The middle section is made up of small electric shocks that make me jump from my seat and laugh.

There were enough fun moments in “Central intelligence” to leave me with a nice sensation once it was over. I look forward to seeing the movie and hearing the score in context.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 11 / 44

Album excellence: 26%

Highlights:

Sleepover

Office Escape

Stop the Car

Nunchucks and Bikes

Jet on a Bike

Take Off

Garage Fight

Bob Stone’s Acceptance Speech

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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