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Composer interview: Christopher Lennertz on ‘Think Like a Man Too’, Part 1

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Massachusetts-born Christopher Lennertz is a composer who simply does not know how to slow down. Since launching onto the scene nearly fifteen years ago, he has simultaneously juggled score work for television, feature films and video games consistently and with incredible quality. His notable works include several entries in the “Medal of Honor”, “Mass Effect” and James Bond series’ of video games, family films like “Lemonade Mouth” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks”, dark comedies like “Identity Thief” and “Horrible Bosses”, and the long-running CW Network series “Supernatural”.

His name is attached in recent years to director Tim Story’s films that star Kevin Hart – “Think Like a Man”, “Ride Along”, and now “Think Like a Man Too”. Working under tight deadlines on three-to-four (or more) projects at once would leave anyone with very little time to do anything else, however, Mr. Lennertz graciously opened a window to spend a little time with Examiner to discuss his recent endeavors.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “Think Like a Man Too” is your first sequel to your own work.

You know what, I think you’re right. And it was as fun as I thought it would be. The neat thing about it, and I was just talking with Tim Story about it, was that I loved what he did with the first movie. I really loved the characters; I thought they were really interesting and relatable. I also loved that it was a romantic comedy disguised as a zany comedy, and I loved the subversive nature of that concept, so that by the end all the guys would be snuggled up to their girlfriends, because I’m a big sap. The other thing that was great about it was that anyone could relate to it; it wasn’t specifically an “urban film.” It was just a great romantic comedy film. And the box office proved it. It’s great that Tim is in the business of making great Hollywood movies that people love.

Was that a challenge for you from the first one, to take the preconceived notions people have for romantic comedies and screwball comedies and bleed them together?

Yeah, absolutely. That is something we really worked to do – to keep the heart in it, while always giving the people permission to laugh, especially when it came to Kevin! This was the first of his I did, and now I’m on my fourth Kevin Hart movie. And he really, truly is the next Eddie Murphy, the next Chris Rock, the next Robin Williams. He is THAT GUY. He’s just so quick and clever that my job is to support whatever he’s doing – to give him the license to be funny without telling the audience every joke; let him do that work. And it’s the same with the rest of the cast; the whole cast is so funny. I think my job is really to set the tone while not getting too specific. I think I really get to shine at the end when everyone’s relationships start coming together – the wedding happens, the possibility of a baby with the one couple. I love being able to take those emotions and just run with them.

You always hear about the creation of scores from a clinical, or job-like standpoint. Having worked with “heartwarming” films in the past, do you ever project your own feelings into the score to help progress the films’ “reality”?

Oh yes, definitely. I think you have to relate in some way or another. My wife and I were trying to have our second child, and I remember very specifically that feeling of knowing we were finally going to have one. So, the piece that happened in this film, when Jerry [Ferrara] and Gabrielle [Union] learn that they might be having a baby; I get it! I’ve been there, so I reached into my own world and pulled that out and invoked it musically.

One thing that really rings through both scores is how authentic the scored soul music parts come across.

That is something I worked REALLY hard at. I wanted it to sound and feel like it came off of a record. I wanted it to feel like it was taken from an Earth, Wind and Fire record or something like that. We used a lot of microphones from that era and a lot of other recording equipment that was from that era. My engineer Jeff and I did a lot of research to even find what kind of amps they were using back then. The goal was to make it sound like the instrumental section of an album you might have sitting on your shelf from that era. And then, of course, I updated it with some more modern hip-hop stuff, too, on top. But yeah, the basis for it was definitely that R&B/Soul stuff that gave a really fun vibe to the movie.

Scoring comedies can sometimes be a thankless job, because on one hand, people are paying serious attention to the dialogue and the imagery, and the background music gets lost. And on the other hand, nearly every comedy film known to man has a licensed song-based soundtrack. How do you compete with those factors to make your “voice” heard?

Well, you kinda don’t. One of the things I do, especially with comedies, is that I know my place. I know I’m part of the team and part of telling the story as a whole, but I am not the whole musical voice; especially when you have movies like these that have great songs in them. Both Tim, the director, and Spring Aspers, our music supervisor get involved in picking the music. And I’ve got no problem sharing the stage with great songs by Pitbull, Snoop & Dre, Mary J. Blige…the first one had John Legend! They’re all heroes of mine to begin with.

And I realize that the score works WITH the songs to make the movie a great experience. And I’m okay with that. Obviously, it’s a very different ballgame when you’re scoring something very intense like “Revolution” or “Supernatural” for TV, when there aren’t as many songs and I can be more spotlight-ish. It’s okay. I’m here to help tell the story and to make sure that the movie is as good as it can be. I realize that it shouldn’t be all my music; there is something amazing that a great song can bring to a film, too. Lord knows, Scorsese’s figured that out!

How did you so quickly become “the Kevin Hart composer”?

Part of it is because I became a “Tim Story guy.” I owe a lot of thanks to him, because he brought me onto the first “Think Like a Man.” We worked together great, (we had both gone to USC). Then we went on to do “Ride Along,” then this film, and now we’re on to “Ride Along 2” with Kevin. So, because of that, I ended up doing a lot of Kevin’s movies. It had more to do with Tim and Will Packer, the producer, also doing a lot of Kevin’s movies.

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