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Spy Kids
Co-Composed, Arranged, and Co-Orchestrated by:
John Debney

Co-Composed by:
Danny Elfman
Harry Gregson-Williams
Gavin Greenaway
Chris Boardman
Heitor Pereira
Marcel Rodriguez

Co-Composed and Produced by:
Robert Rodriguez

Co-Orchestrated by:
Bruce Fowler
Ladd McIntosh
Don Nemitz

Chapter III Records

Release Date:
April 10th, 2001

Also See:
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Inspector Gadget
My Favorite Martian
Chicken Run

Audio Clips:
3. Spy Wedding (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (149K)

7. Pod Chase (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (246K)
Real Audio (153K)

12. Floop's Song (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (261K)
Real Audio (162K)

18. Final Family Theme (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (241K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.


Spy Kids
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Buy it... if you are either a fan of the Spy Kids franchise or seek a spunky and spirited, Latin-flavored spy thriller in the children's adventure genre.

Avoid it... if you prefer not to spend most of the listening experience trying to piece together the portions of the score written by each of its numerous composers and featuring their distinctly disparate styles.

Spy Kids: (John Debney/Danny Elfman/Robert Rodriguez/Various) In 2001, nobody could have imagined that El Mariachi director Robert Rodriguez had wholesome family entertainment like this in his system. The Spy Kids franchise obviously became something of pet project for Rodriguez, whose entries in the genre of children's spy thrillers were of high enough quality to serve their purpose without completely abandoning all hope for adults in the audience. It also more importantly gave the industry something that simply did not exist within its ranks: a family of Hispanic heroes. Regardless of your tolerance for the snazzy style of the Spy Kids franchise, the music situation has been something of a curiosity in all of its entries. These scores have been complicated by Rodriguez's desire to write some, if not much of the music himself, relying on John Debney to help flesh out his ideas into functional orchestral works. From a logistical perspective, though, the music for this first adventure flick to chronicle the endeavors of the Cortez family was the kind of nightmare that would have been inconceivable in Hollywood just ten years prior. The scoring by committee philosophy, as strange as it must have seemed to the Elmer Bernsteins and Maurice Jarres of the community, had actually become a popular avenue of scoring for the modern composer guild. With the existence of organizations such as Media Ventures, projects like Gladiator, with three primary composers and a number of contributors, had been proven to actually work. Composers can step in for a week of messing around on the scoring stage, write a theme or screw around with another guy's theme, and then take off. Whether he or she actually gets credit on the cue sheet is another matter. In the case of Spy Kids, however, this process is exploited to the extreme.

The collaborative structure allowed guys like Danny Elfman to score by telecommuting, writing a theme, sending it to Hans Zimmer for a "beefing up" assignment by several of his in-house pupils, and then having John Debney involved to orchestrate and oversee the final production. Throw in a director who himself composes certain sections and chooses instrumentation while delegating short cues to half a dozen other composers who raised their hands when the call (or word of mouth) for composers went out. For Spy Kids, you can picture these people walking into the studio, mucking around for a while, spontaneously conjuring up a minute of ideas, testing out these ideas like a group of giddy teenagers with new band equipment in the garage, and then going to lunch. Of course, it's not actually that simple, but the true logistical nightmare in this case must reside with the administrative studio assistant who has to figure out who gets what share of the royalties and then cuts the checks by each ten seconds of music contributed. You can almost picture several Golden Age composers rolling in their graves. In any case, the frenetic, Latin-flavored score for Spy Kids gives the listener the impression that the group of composers had a lot of effortless fun working together on the project. As a cohesive whole, the score surprisingly functions well enough. Elfman and Debney, the two blockbuster names on the project, had collaborated before (My Favorite Martian), and their styles when writing for this genre are well matched. But not all of the other styles mesh as well. For the trained film music ear, it is easy to determine where one composer left off and another began. Rodriguez's guitars, Elfman's plucky acoustics, Gregson-Williams' keyboards, and Debney's orchestra weave in and out with recognizable shifts in style. If you're a style purist seeking a score of immaculate clarity and vision, Spy Kids is not the answer.

The music's sheer zaniness creates the only consistency that the film requires from it. On album, however, the jigsaw puzzle of pieces begins to fall apart. The most obvious drawback of the "scoring by committee of 8+ composers" approach is that each cue is short in length and shallow in realization. Just as one composer's take on the score begins to prevail, the music shifts 180 degrees and throws you off. Such an example of this occurs between "My Parents Are Spies," which contains the rather mellow but stylish Elfman title theme, and "Spy Wedding," which bursts into an immediate flamenco guitar and choral subtheme. Not all of the cue cuts are as dramatic as this, but just when you settle into the Debney school of spaciously orchestral kiddie action cues, you get thrust upon a Gavin Greenaway array of newer Media Ventures synthesizer tricks. Perhaps for someone who isn't familiar with each composer individually, this won't be as much of a problem. The very first music composed for the film was sent in by Elfman, who was originally approached by Rodriguez for the project. In a page blatently torn from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elfman recycles his song "This is Halloween" for "Floop's Song." With actor Alan Cumming performing his best Elfman singing imitation, it's hard not to irritated when hearing The Nightmare Before Christmas defaced like this. The remaining Elfman cues, which are three or four in quantity, tend to combine the acoustics of the composer's softer, late 90's material with a marginal orchestral presence. The exception is the more robust "Buddy Pack Escape," for which Elfman assembles an ambitious orchestral action piece. Debney, who is the master at taking other composers' ideas and translating them into a finished orchestral product, doesn't actually have any trademark cues of his own throughout Spy Kids, though you can occasionally hear a bit of My Favorite Martian or Inspector Gadget in the more complex ensemble performances within the action cues.

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Unless you are a die-hard completist of either Elfman or Debney's work, though, there is nothing substantially individual on this short album other than the value that Elfman's fans may place on the familiar "Floop's Song." Ironically, the best material in the Spy Kids score comes from the auxiliary composers. The Latin flavor infused by Rodriguez and Harry Gregson-Williams is a definite asset; the various guitars alone are a tenacious spark of life. Unfortunately, this ethnic style diminishes as the score progresses, losing its ability to glue all the disparate pieces together. It is Gregson-Williams who eventually finalizes the Cortex family theme for the film, with performances of the heroic, synthetically aided theme (a highlight of the score) in the short opening and closing tracks of the score portion of the album. The selling point of the album for the label was the obnoxious teenage rock song by Fonda at the end, a truly hideous entry in its lack of originality. But as for the score in sum, it bubbles and overflows with fun sense of creativity, and this wild ride can somewhat compensate for rocky listening experience caused by the short length of each cue and structural idea. You have to wonder what Debney thought specifically of this project, given his spoken reservations about the Media Ventures process of committee writing through the years. Musically speaking, Spy Kids doesn't have the same kind of inspiring integrity as most of the solo efforts by any of the involved artists, nor does it overwhelm you with sonic grandeur at any point. But its spunk is summarized perfectly by the flair of Rodriguez's "Spy Wedding" track co-composed with Los Lobos. A vibrant recording of the orchestra, extremely crisp from start to finish, is a major plus (if only Elfman's concurrent Planet of the Apes had featured the same clarity, it might have been a stronger listening experience). Parts of the album will rock your room with energy, but the somewhat incongruous styles of each involved composer will leave you with a fading, unenthusiastic memory of the music once the fun stops. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Debney reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.23 (in 49 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 2.97 (in 43,795 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.92 Stars
Smart Average: 2.91 Stars*
***** 315 
**** 322 
*** 470 
** 431 
* 331 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: Floop´s Song
  FominArkadij -- 12/6/11 (10:04 p.m.)
   The music is Ok.
  Jay -- 5/18/03 (2:06 p.m.)
   Re: Floops Song
  cory -- 10/20/02 (4:44 p.m.)
   Re: Spy Kids Short Review
  Robby Blank -- 10/3/02 (9:18 a.m.)
   The soundtrack is boring
  Ali W. -- 9/1/02 (1:32 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 31:06

• 1. Cortez Family (1:38)
   Composed by Gavin Greenaway, Heitor Pereira, and Harry Gregson-Williams
• 2. My Parents are Spies (2:07)
   Composed by Danny Elfman
• 3. Spy Wedding (2:09)
   Composed by Los Lobos, Robert Rodriguez, and Marcel Rodriguez
• 4. Spy Kids Demonstration (1:03)
   Composed by John Debney, Robert Rodriguez, and Marcel Rodriguez
• 5. Parents on a Mission (1:15)
   Composed by John Debney, Danny Elfman, Gavin Greenaway, and Heitor Pereira
• 6. Kids Escape House (3:12)
   Composed by Gavin Greenaway and Heitor Pereira
• 7. Pod Chase (1:37)
   Composed by John Debney, Danny Elfman, and Harry Gregson-Williams
• 8. The Safehouse (0:45)
   Composed by John Debney and Danny Elfman
• 9. The Third Brain (0:58)
   Composed by John Debney, Robert Rodriguez, and Marcel Rodriguez
• 10. Buddy Pack Escape (1:37)
   Composed by Danny Elfman
• 11. Oye Como Spy (2:57)
   Composed by David Garza and Robert Rodriguez, Performed by Los Lobos
• 12. Floop's Song (Cruel World) (0:58)
   Words and Music by Danny Elfman, Performed by Alan Cumming
• 13. Spy Go Round (2:10)
   Composed by Gavin Greenaway and Heitor Pereira
• 14. Minion (1:02)
   Composed by Chris Boardman, Gavin Greenaway, Heitor Pereira, and Robert Rodriguez
• 15. Sneaking Around Machete's (0:34)
   Composed by Danny Elfman
• 16. The Spy Plane (1:27)
   Composed by John Debney and Danny Elfman
• 17. Floop's Castle (1:27)
   Composed by Chris Boardman
• 18. Final Family Theme (1:40)
   Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams
• 19. Spy Kids (Save the World) (2:20)
   Arranged and Performed by Fonda

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive credits and a March 2001 note from the director about the process of creating the score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Spy Kids are Copyright © 2001, Chapter III Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 4/27/01 and last updated 1/11/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2001-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.