Part coming-of-age story, part loving parody of 1980s action movies, 2007’s Son of Rambow tells the tale of a British schoolchild from a strict religious family who accidentally sees First Blood and becomes obsessed with creating his own amateur “Rambow” movie whilst navigating the trials and tribulations of adolescence. The second and so far final movie produced by “Hammer & Tongs” (director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith), Son of Rambow was made possible by its low budget and the modest success of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it too was modestly successful with good reviews and enough revenue to recoup its small budget.
Hammer & Tongs had always planned to have a soundtrack that mixed pop tunes of the early 1980s with an original score for Son of Rambow, and the latter was provided by British composer Joby Talbot. Talbot had, of course, been Hammer & Tongs’ choice for The Hitchhiker’s Guide as well; Son of Rambow would wind up being the composer’s second major film score. With the need to work around song placements in a 90-minute film–in his liner notes, director Jennings notes his desire to make the CD his “ultimate 80s mixtape”–Talbot turned in a score just about 25 minutes long, about half the length of The Hitchhiker’s Guide.
One might expect, naturally, for a score like Son of Rambow to reference, pastiche, or pay homage to Jerry Goldsmith’s seminal action score for First Blood similar to something like what John Du Prez did with UHF in 1989. Instead, it’s clear from the outset of Talbot’s score that he’s more interested in the characters’ reactions to “Rambow” than anything else. The score opens with a great galumphing comic march, “The Best Day Ever,” which is a million miles removed from even the lightest portions of Goldsmith’s First Blood. “The Best Day Ever” theme, reprised in full for “First Day Filming” and “Son of Rambow,” is a delightful tune wherever it appears and (with apologies to Duran Duran) the album’s clear highlight.
The remainder of Talbot’s score is rather similar to what he provided for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (albeit lacking the synths some parts of that work featured): tuneful music in diverse styles that occasionally seem a bit scattershot. There’s some soft alternatives to the brassy “Best Day” march in “The Sad Day” and “Can You Fix It,” the latter performed in full James Horner style by Talbot himself. Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide will appreciate more quirky music such as the goofy “I’m French, Non?” which is probably the most like that earlier score, and the percussive “The Scarecrow” which sounds like an amped-up version of the Blue Man Group tracks from John Powell’s Robots.
Along with The Hitchhiker’s Guide, Son of Rambow was the beginning of a very active period of composition for Talbot, with scores for Arctic Tale, Penelope, and Franklyn coming over the next two years. Sadly, none of the films was the sort of breakout success that would lead to more film work, and the composer’s main efforts continued to be directed toward the small screen, theater, and ballet.