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Penguins Of Madagascar by Lorne Balfe (Review)

posted Nov 17, 2014, 8:25 PM by Kaya Savas

Lorne Balfe has always been a sure thing when it comes to stylistically impressive scores that find just the right sound for the projects they accompany. Lorne is no stranger to animation, having previously co-scored Megamind as well as working with Hans Zimmer on many of his animated scores including the last two Madagascars. Penguins Of Madagascar should exceed any expectations you have about a spin-off with the popular slapstick characters. The score is more than quirky antics, and showcases how well Balfe can build thematic emotional arcs while still making a score that's tons of fun.

James Dooley was behind that bumbling big-band theme that accompanied the gang when they popped up in the Madagascar films, but there’s no way that it was built to carry an entire film. Lorne does reference Dooley's theme though plenty of times which is great, but here he also builds a simply perfect main theme to encompass their origin story. The score is so wonderfully lush, full of life and energy that it pulls you in for the ride from the get-go. Balfe has done a great job at giving the Penguins their own unique soundscape. While structurally and stylistically you can hear a bit of Megamind in the score, Balfe builds off his style to mesh certain genres of sounds. The only way to describe it would probably be as a modern big-band James Bond score with just the right amount of quirk and mischief. Beyond that though I was totally surprised by the amount of heart and emotion injected into the narrative as well. Balfe truly found a way to humanize these penguins. The music builds a personality for the gang instead of just having them as this comic relief group modeled after The Three Stooges. In the minds of the characters they are international super spies, and the music here is exactly what is playing in their heads. It’s orchestrally big, bold and thematic. Most of all though, the music is stylistically true to the characters and carries Balfe’s unmistakable knack for vibrant thematic variation. With a theme and sound as catchy as the main characters, this is a score to revisit often.

Penguins Of Madagascar follows the musical legacy that Dreamworks Animation has built from a core group of go-to composers who return time and again to craft something alive and new. The music is stylistically and emotionally engaging, with enough bounce and quirk to infuse the characters into the score. John Barry’s James Bond scores definitely influence some of the stylistic homages Balfe makes, but the music's approach and structure has Balfe all over it. In what might be a nod to how Hans named his Batman Begins tracks, Lorne’s track titles are all the scientific latin names of different species of penguins. Overall Penguins Of Madagascar not only doesn’t disappoint, it truly becomes a score that’s special and memorable.