Musical Scenes in Non-Musicals

6:25 PM

Minor spoilers for The Lego Movie series, Shrek 2, Back to the Future, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and The Mask

By film editor, Ajay Ascano

A few weekends back, I saw the sequel to 2014’s The Lego Movie: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the jokes in the film (most of which probably flew over many of the kids’ heads.) However, there was one major gripe of the film that made me cringe:

Its singing.

Now, I’m not dissing the singing talents of Will Arnett or Tiffany Haddish, but these scenes were definitely the epitome of pandering to a child audience. For context: a lot of people definitely saw the first film as a movie intended for a broader audience age range.

Another factor of my distaste of certain musical segments in films is the lack of realism. If it plays well into the plot and is not forced, it can generally be a good addition.

So, here I am to compare and contrast musical scenes in non-musical movies. Of course, these are my opinions, so what I may feel was awkward might be different than others.

“Johnny B. Goode” - Back to the Future

While not necessarily contributing to the plot, this scene in Back to the Future (1985), is a good example of just a random music sample. Going on for about 3 minutes, it’s placed amongst the other scenes haphazardly. 

For me, the only memorable part of this scene is the revelation that Marty McFly was Chuck Berry’s inspiration to make the song. Otherwise, it does feel a bit forced to have this clip of Michael J. Fox rocking out on stage for so long.

While not as forced as The Lego Movie 2’s multiple singing parts, it still could have been time well-used.

“I Need A Hero” - Shrek 2

Shrek 2, regarded as one of the few sequels to break the “sequels can’t be just as good as the first” curse. I don’t think it’s the nostalgia that fuels my enjoyment of this scene, but rather how memorable the scenery in the climax was. For context, Shrek’s wife, Princess Fiona, was captured and being forced to remarry another Prince. The film then follows Shrek as he races to stop this event from happening.

The title of the song spells it out. “I Need A Hero” symbolizes exactly what the situation calls for. Unlike “Johnny B. Goode” in Back to the Future, the song was actually covered specifically for its film.

Overall, the upbeat remix of the song works well in tandem with the visuals, making this a noteworthy musical scene.

“Cuban Pete” - The Mask

Now, we arrive at Jim Carrey’s performance in The Mask (1994). Under the namesake guise of “The Mask,” Carrey’s character is being pressured by cops for some mischievous activities. So, to counteract the entire police-force, he begins to play and sing a samba mix of “Cuban Pete,” originally recorded by Louis Armstrong in the ‘30s. 

The interactions in this scene are well choreographed as the protagonist uses the Mask to bend reality through the use of song and dance.

“Mr. Blue Sky” - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Finally, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite opening scenes in recent movies. GotG Vol. 2 opens up with the Guardians battling a giant alien monster, save for Groot. Groot, now basically a child, plugs in the aux cord from a Walkman to some speakers. Muting most of the fights sound, we focus on the fight from tiny Groot’s perspective. 

Each one of the Guardians has an interaction with him as he dances around the battle platform. He even takes on his own monster. This scene is just overall a great counterpart to the first film, which does approximately the same, but only with Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt.

So, to those who wish to use a musical scene in a non-musical:

If it’s not used in an interesting or original way,

you probably shouldn’t use it.

…I am Groot

Ajay Ascano, film editor

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