EARLY AUTUMN is Hollywood's Port-o-Potty, a place to deposit fetid rough drafts and let nature run its ugly course. One of the post- Labor Day period's few pleasures is the way soundtracks mutate from generic, summertime hit single ATMs into eclectic disaster pieces.
Wanna-be sleeper Rat Race grafts overused classics ("Chain of Fools") and D+ party pop (Smash Mouth) into an aggressively enervating brain drain. The nadir is the so-called bonus track "America Rocks," in which elementary-school kids bleat ceaseless backup for Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. Kinda makes Michael Jackson look like Ward Cleaver.
Few phrases are more dubious than "music inspired by the motion picture," but the hip-hop fueling O and Training Day (due October 5) is eerily symbiotic with gritty urban themes. DJ Ran Project's silky "O (Hatin' on You & Me)" bestows a heat and weight upon the former's doomed protagonist that the uneven screenplay couldn't quite cinch. On the rougher side, the wah-laden gangsta bounce of Pharoahe Monch's "Fuck You" drenches Denzel's corrupt cop saga in street cred.
Unsurprisingly, period dramas like Captain Corelli's Mandolin and The Musketeer—my apologies to the word "drama"—stick to traditional orchestral scores. Despite the martial arts hyperactivity coursing through Musketeer, its composer opts for tired, brassy swashbuckler anthems. The charge of Eastern influence in the score might've aggravated an awful idea, but it's at least an interesting awful idea.
The smoking gun to autumnal incompetence? A 22-year-old soundtrack is unquestionably the cream of the current crap. Apocalypse Now Redux moans with terrifying synthesizers ࠬa exploitative horror classics like Last House on the Left. Francis Ford Coppola uses the Doors and Wagner to powerful, unforgettable effect.
The aforementioned source movies are, of course, cow chips next to Apocalypse. Its stirring soundtrack is a testament to film scoring's greatest challenge: to enrich and expand the underlying cinematic experience. And no, Hollywood, Rat Race Redux is not the answer.