Charlotte's Web (Music from the Motion Picture)
His career-spanning collaboration with Tim Burton and a long string of superhero-fueled soundtrack successes make it easy to under-imagine what a Danny Elfman work will sound like. But his resume is also dotted with many lesser known musical jewels — his scores for Black Beauty and Instinct, for instance — and this intimate, effervescent score for director Gary Winnick's update of E.B. White's enduring fable for children of all ages quickly distinguishes itself. The composer's love of 20th century Russian classicism still occasionally bubbles to the surface here, but it's folded into a much richer and varied melange of influences that range from the minimalist-tinged title music to downright folksy charms and gentle string and wind concoctions that recall similar contemporary pastoral work by Rachel Portman — and even the more subdued impressionistic adventures of Thomas Newman. Star Dakota Fanning vocalizes briefly on the lilting "Lullaby," while Sarah MacLachlan's stately take on the Dave Stewart/Glen Ballard ballad "Ordinary Miracle" rises above most similarly tacked-on Hollywood pop music gambits.