Music By James Newton Howard
La-La Land Records LLLCD1234
34 Tracks/Disc Time: 67:25 Grade: B
Back in the 90’s, smart, intellegent comedies were being produced the either caught on or unfortunately over looked. Dave was a very rare case in which a smart political comedy really did crossover and became a hit film. The film is almost a Frank Capra-esque fantasy and one full of wit and great genuine human moments that really do touch you. The film revolves around sweet and genuinely nice Temp Office agency head named Dave Kovac (Kevin Kiine), who just happens to look like the current President of the United States, Bill Mitchell (also played by Kiine) and is then hired by the President’s Chief of Staff the conniving Bob Alexander (Frank Langella) and his aide, Alan Reed (Kevin Dunn) to take over the President’s duties after the real President Mitchell suffers a massive stroke after having a intimate encounter with his personal secretary. Dave soon finds out that the President’s job isn’t exactly roses and has to make amends with his neglected First Lady, Ellen Mitchell (Sigourney Weaver) and his humiliated Vice President Nance (Sir Ben Kingsley) as well as making tough choices for the good of the country. With the help of his accountant Murray (Charles Grodin), Dave is able to save a homeless children’s center and shake up things around White House against the wishes of his Chief of Staff who’s threatens to expose the charade he started unless Dave does it first. The film received alot of glowing reviews and after 20 years, it still receives high phrase from all of those who have seen it.
When it came to the film’s music, Director Ivan Reitman had worked with the late Elmer Bernstein for a decade scoring comedies such as National Lampoon’s Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Legal Eagles before Bernstein eventually got tired of the genre and went for a more dramatic realm of movies. Reitman then developed a positive working relationship with composer Randy Edelman, who scored Ghostbusters 2, Kindergarten Cop and later on, Six Days Seven Nights for the director. Since Bernstein was no longer doing comedies and Edelman, couldn’t provide the sound that Reitman was looking for in regards to this film, he chose James Newton Howard, who was riding really high after his Academy Award nomination for The Prince of Tides and hit films such as Alive which had come out early in 1993. Howard who has a gift for memorable themes and melody, provided Dave with an airy and melodic score that really underscores this comedy perfectly. It’s a sweet and saccarine score that really does pull your heartstrings and also makes you root for Dave’s character everytime he’s on screen. From the opening credits “Main Title”, Howard introduces his main theme which is a soaring and melodic theme representing the gentle Dave theme, which would he would give different shadings and variations to throughout the score. It has has an infectious energy about it that makes you hum it, I know I did more than once.
The theme really does take prominance in other tender and dramatic tracks such as “$656 Million”, “Ellen Finds Out”, “Ellen And Dave Pack/The Tunnel”, and “The Picnic”, the latter track features and introduces a love theme for both Dave and Ellen as they do start to fall in love with each other despite the charade. The theme gets a great dramatic reading in both “Dave Passes Out” and “Into The Fog”, that really display Howard’s great touch for dramatic scoring. “Ellen Volunteers” is a recapitulation of the Dave/Ellen love theme getting a rousing finale and the “End Credits” reprises Dave’s theme and the scores memorable moments for a positive close. La-La Land’s expanded album which is years in the making, is a solid and breezy affair that really brought me back as to why I liked this score so much and loved the film even more. Howard just brought everything great to this film and you can tell that he loved it because it really shows in the music without question. Unfortunately, the score is one of Howard’s overlooked gems and with the film’s 20th Anniversary this year, it is great to see the album given special treatment and the film will hopefully also garner the same treatment by Warner Bros. because it is a terrific film. As for the score, Dave just proves that you don’t to overwhelm a smartly written movie with tons of music and emphasize the comedy. Howard was smart to underscore when the film needed it and for that, produced a lush and special work. Gleefully recommended.