Interview: WAMG Talks To THINK LIKE A MAN TOO Composer Christopher Lennertz
By Michelle McCue for We Are Movie Geeks
Director Tim Story’s THINK LIKE A MAN TOO opens in theaters this weekend on June 20. The film is the follow-up to the hit ensemble comedy THINK LIKE A MAN and reunites the original cast, including Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union and Taraji P. Henson.
Story teamed up again with composer Christopher Lennertz for the film’s score.
He first made a splash with his breakout score for ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS, which has grossed over $360 million worldwide. Since then he’s proven his steadfast talent with films like the star-studded HORRIBLE BOSSES, and Universal’s box office smash RIDE ALONG.
Lennertz’s other recent scores include the hit comedy IDENTITY THIEF and the critically acclaimed drama THANKS FOR SHARING with Mark Ruffalo & Gwyneth Paltrow.
While his knack for comedy is undeniable in films like THINK LIKE A MAN, he’s also contributed his unique style to many hit family films including HOP and CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE. Furthermore, he’s tapped into the indie world, scoring films like Alfred P. Sloan winner ADAM (Fox Searchlight), GIRL IN PROGRESS, and TORTILLA HEAVEN, which garnered the very first FilmMusic award for Best Independent Score.
Lennertz has written the music for NBC’s “Revolution” (J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau) and his long time run on the series “Supernatural” led to an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Underscore, while on the video game side, he’s had hits like Steven Spielberg’s Medal of Honor series.
Lennertz has worked with legendary artists such as Basil Poledouris, Michael Kamen, Dave Grusin, Alan Menken, The RZA, and Alien Ant Farm. He has collaborated with members of Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys, The Dave Matthews Band, Jurassic 5, and Jane’s Addiction. His groundbreaking collaboration with Ozomatli on Street Signs garnered a Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock Album.
Still early in his career, he has already scored 43 feature films, 7 network series, many of the biggest interactive titles, and has spent weeks on the Billboard charts. Christopher Lennertz continually draws excitement as one of the freshest and most versatile young composers in Hollywood.
During our phone interview, Lennertz and I talked about his THINK LIKE A MAN TOO score, with its Vegas and R&B sounds, as well as his upcoming projects – the new TV project “Galavant” by Alan Menken and films HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 and Kevin Hart films, RIDE ALONG 2 and THE WEDDING RINGER.
WAMG: I recently saw the film and it’s really funny. Terrence J and Regina Hall visited St. Louis to intro the screening earlier this month. The crowd loved them and the film.
Christopher Lennertz: Oh that’s awesome. I love both of them.
WAMG: You’ve worked with director Tim Story on the first film and RIDE ALONG. It’s developed into a working partnership. When were you brought onto this project?
CL: Pretty much from the start. Tim had just finished RIDE ALONG and that’s done really well. Tim and I get along great. He said, “are you in?” and I said, “of course.” And that was that.
WAMG: One of the funniest parts of the movie includes Kevin Hart.
Cedric is the best man of the wedding, and according to Kevin Hart, he sets out to be “the best best man in the history of best men.” With that goal in mind, he spends way more money than he has on Caesars Palace’s lavish, ultra exclusive Constantine Villa. He runs around the multiroom mini-mansion that he has rented for the weekend like a kid on too much caffeine.
The title on the soundtrack is called ‘Villa Run Around Scene’ and the music is perfect for his character. It’s very frantic. Was that written specifically for him or did you compose it after seeing the footage?
CL: They shot it and I wrote it after. I saw him running around and I knew it had to be crazy. We decided in this movie to give some of his quirkiness a gospel-feel. In one scene, after he’s asked to be the Best Man, he walks away singing ‘This Little Light Of Mine’ and for some reason it just stuck in my head.
I thought it would be really funny to do Kevin’s music where he’s running around his hotel room all frenetic in a gospel way, with him clapping along with loud guitar music underneath. Along with Todd Bozung (supervising music editor) and the rest of team, it just worked out.
WAMG: The audience was crying during the scene.
CL: He’s got a couple of those moments. Obviously that one and where he’s dancing are just hilarious.
WAMG: The “POISON” Bell Biv Devoe remix with the actresses is a scream. Regina Hall mentioned how they had to go into a studio to record their voices. How much were you involved with that?
CL: The writers came up with that first. Tim (Story) decided on set to shoot it like a ‘90’s music video along with a fish-eye lensed camera. It’s great!
WAMG: There are so many good songs throughout the film. How much were you involved with that?
CL: The songs are mostly picked by the director and music supervisor. Tim also worked very closely with Mary J. Blige to pick the right music.
The songs in both movies are phenomenal, but the songs in this one work perfectly.
WAMG: There’s a heavy R&B vibe throughout… totally what you’d hear in a 60′s Hollywood Vegas movie. It has big band style brass, as well as hints of old school, Rat Pack rhythms. Where did all these varying themes come from?
CL: I talked to Tim while he was shooting and the idea was to take what we did in the first movie, which was a very R&B, Hip-Hop thing, add Vegas to that and take it up a level. So we added more brass, we definitely added some of those big moments at the casinos where we went into full Rat-Pack style. Even the romantic themes – we went even further.
We wanted all the special moments in the movie to have an even bigger impact on the audience.
We decided the whole score should have the same energy as the first one, in terms of who the characters are, but then take it up a notch because they’re in Vegas and the relationships have developed a bit. We had a great time. The brass sounds make you feel like they’re in Vegas
WAMG: What kind of instruments did you go with?
CL: The band that we went with in the original movie was made up of traditional R&B – guitar, drums, percussion, a lot of organs and pianos. Very much like a 70’s sound, but brought up-to-date. Like an Earth, Wind and Fire. Then we added a bigger, fuller horn section on this movie.
Stylistically we added writing with more of a jazzy flair for Vegas and the actual orchestra, for the sweeter parts, we went bigger with that as well.
WAMG: It’s a fun soundtrack all around with the mixture of your score and the songs from Mary J. Blige and Nikki Minaj. It’s a good interspersing of all the sounds.
CL: Thank you. I think it worked out great! I think the movie is really great. It’s just as funny, if not funnier than the first one. Then it’s got this great ending where the last ten minutes – it’s a date movie. It’s a great romantic comedy. I think guys will like it, girls will like it.
WAMG: It’s a fun summer movie.
CL: I think the release date is right and people are ready for a romantic comedy. Go see it and have fun for a night.
WAMG: What’s it like to go between film and TV?
CL: For me it’s not all that different. It comes down to schedule – TV is much faster. Writing music, whether it’s TV or film, drama or comedy or horror, it’s all the same kind of idea, it’s just getting it done. With that said, I love the idea that I can go from one thing to the next. A lot of the movies I do are action comedies like IDENTITY THIEF or HORRIBLE BOSSES and a lot of the TV I’ve done are more serious like SUPERNATURAL or REVOLUTION. It’s nice for me to be able to go back and forth. The video game “Medal Of Honor” was like a SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. I love to be able to switch around and be able to write different kinds of music. It keeps me from getting stuck or getting bored.
WAMG: You are currently working with Oscar and Tony-winner Alan Menken on ABC’s new musical comedy “Galavant”. What’s that show about?
CL: “Galavant” is a show you’ve never seen before! I’m really happy ABC is going to put it on the air because it’s really so smart, but yet hilarious. The best way to describe it basically is as if THE PRINCESS BRIDE was on TV every week as a musical.
It’s very raunchy. It’s got three new songs a week by Alan Menken who’s a god in terms of writing songs and music with all his Oscars. He’s an absolute genius. More than anything I wanted to do the show to learn from him, watch how he does things and work together on the show.
The show is absolutely hilarious. It’s got knights and kings and queens who are dancing and singing, but yet it’s very, very adult and very, very clever. A lot of innuendo and plus really quick wit. The cast is great – they all sing. People are not going to believe how good it is.
WAMG: What do you have coming up on the film side?
CL: The next one out is HORRIBLE BOSSES 2 (Warner Bros). That’s out in November. Again, that one’s even funnier than the first one.
Then after that I have a great movie called THE WEDDING RINGER (Screen Gems) that comes out in January. It’s Kevin Hart like you’ve never seen him. He teams up with Josh Gad (“Book of Mormon,” Olaf in FROZEN). Plus it also stars Kaley Cuoco (TV’s “Big Bang Theory).
In “The Wedding Ringer,” Jimmy (Hart) provides best man services for socially challenged guys, who – for whatever reason – have no one close enough to agree to stand by them on the day of their wedding. Doug (Gad) a groom-to-be, has found himself in just such a situation, but, to make matters worse, he fabricates the names of not only a best man but nine groomsmen as well. When all else fails, Doug seeks out Jimmy’s services to carry out a charade designed to make Doug look his best, but threatens to destroy everything if it fails.
Jeremy Garelick (writer of “The Break-Up”) is directing “The Wedding Ringer” from a screenplay he wrote with Jay Lavender (“The Break-Up”).
CL: It’s really along the lines, comedy-wise, of something like OLD SCHOOL or ROAD TRIP. It’s really crazy and funny. I think people are going to quote it for a long time.
The great part about it is that during the not-so-funny parts, Kevin gets to do some amazing acting at the end besides just being funny. His character is a very sweet “best friend, best man” kinda guy that really makes everybody cry. It’s pretty big and a great role for him. It’s a great movie. I think it will do really, really well.
WAMG: Tim Story is currently in pre-production on RIDE ALONG 2 (Universal has announced a January 2016 release date). Will we hear your score again in the sequel?
CL: I’m pretty sure I’m on board for that. While I haven’t officially signed up yet, Tim wants me to do it – whatever he wants me to do, I pretty much will do. The first one was so much fun. I grew up in the 90’s and I was in college when Ice Cube was so huge. He’s such a force. I’d love to do another movie with him.
The other thing with RIDE ALONG 2 is it will start shooting in about three weeks and will be even bigger and better than the first one. A lot more action, a lot more everything. They’re shooting in Miami, Atlanta, so I think it’s going to be a really big, funny movie.
The Think Like a Man Too score album will be available on June 20th on Varèse Sarabande Records.