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Soundtrack review: Rock dog (Rolfe Kent – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Rock dog (Rolfe Kent – 2017)

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“Rock Dog” is a 2016 computer-animated comedy film. For the Tibetan Mastiffs living on Snow Mountain, a dog’s life has a simple riff: Guard a peaceful village of wool-making sheep from the thuggish wolf Linnux (Lewis Black) and his rabid pack. To avoid distractions, Mastiff leader Khampa (J.K. Simmons) forbids all music from the mountain. But when Khampa’s son Bodi (Luke Wilson) discovers a radio dropped by a passing airplane, it takes just a few guitar licks for his fate to be sealed: Bodi wants to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. Yet that means defying his father’s wishes, heading to the city, and locating the legendary – and reclusive – musician Angus Scattergood (Eddie Izzard), who needs to write a new song and fast. If Bodi can put a band together, help Angus with his song, and defeat the wolves’ plot to take Snow Mountain, his life will be in tune. The score was written by Rolfe Kent.

A movie about music, located on a mountain; I imagine this is very inviting for a composer. The opening title places the story in the Tibet or somewhere similar with the woodwind motifs and also tells me this is an animation movie with two playful carefree motifs. The Oriental percussion instruments and the ancient Ruan make “An old friend” a cue that could very well feature on the score of a martial arts movie. If you’ve read my reviews you know that I sometimes have a hard time writing about animation scores but there’s something about “Rock dog” that makes it easier for me; when I hear a beautiful and lush cue like “Bodi’s village” I am in the best possible mood. You can’t go wrong with this or with the purely oriental cues that have beautiful flute or string motifs. Rolfe Kent also manages to find the right balance between goofing around music that’s mandatory for an animation film and the serious cues; somehow the two sides blend very well, often in the same cue, and I am enjoying my listening experience. There are also little emotional nuggets like “The yak’s ticket” that just warm me up inside.

I also like how the adventure sounds in this score; once Bodi leaves the mountain the cues get fun and they are short enough to make sure I don’t feel the need to skip any of them. The music is honest and once again the monkeying around is kept to a minimal; the composer treats this score very seriously and the emotional motifs really make me care. He uses Mongolian instruments to define the ethnicity of the music and there are no electronic or sound design elements in the score. I imagine the fun the live players had while recording this score.

“Rock dog” gave me more than I expected; it’s a very nice score with interesting ethnic instruments and a subtle emotional fabric throughout it that makes me feel very close to the story. As a whole this orchestral composition left me in a very good mood and there were times when I reminded me of the Disney animation scores of old.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 13 / 38

Album excellence: 35%

Highlights:
An Old Friend
Bodi’s Village
Bodi’s Bad Aim
Mending the Dramyan
The Yak’s Ticket
Angus Runs from Fans
The Library of Awesomeness
The Injustice of Skattergood
Escaping the Griz
The Wolves Chase Bodi Through the Village
A Father’s Hug

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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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