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Gamba by Benjamin Wallfisch (Review)

posted Oct 19, 2015, 2:33 PM by Kaya Savas

So for all us Americans who are saying “What’s Gamba?”, here’s a quick briefing. Gamba is a popular Japanese children’s novel that was adapted into a TV Series in 1975. Two films followed the successful TV series and that brings us here to 2015 where Gamba is being adapted into a feature-length CGI animated film. The Hollywood connection includes producer Avi Arad (co-founder Marvel Studios) and the immensely talented Benjamin Wallfisch. The plot revolves around Gamba and his friends trying to save his island home from the invasion of the evil White Weasel intending to kill all the mice. Wallfisch’s lush animated score is a true delight that allowed him to write a sprawling adventure that highlights his orchestral writing talents.

Gamba’s musical journey is one that flourishes with grand arcs and immense swells of orchestral goodness from start to finish. While the film’s animation quality is nothing to write home about, the score definitely is. The story of Gamba fighting the great White Weasel is actually one that puts our characters in a great amount of danger. Wallfisch does a great job of giving dramatic weight to the situation, and in turn giving the journey a deep emotional resonance. The score is filled with huge swelling moments that at times can give you goosebumps, there are some really powerful arcs. If anything holds it back it's that the movie tries to balance a “frolic-like” tone in some parts, while being super dramatic in others. Those two tones don’t really congeal quite well, and thankfully Wallfisch only has to address it only a handful of times in the score. So while the score may start off as a bit “cartoony”, it finishes in a grand heroic fashion as the evil is defeated in a fantastic third act.

Gamba is such a tremendous orchestral effort from Wallfisch. The character of Gamba has a rich history in popular culture in Japan, and it may not carry any sentiment here in the United States. However, Wallfisch’s score will whisk you away on a grand adventure where the stakes are real and the emotions run deep, and hopefully open you up to the world of Gamba. The music has to play its role as a “children’s movie” score from time to time, but as a whole this is another fine example of Benjamin Wallfisch’s amazing talents as a composer.