- Composed by Michael Giacchino
- Walt Disney Records / 2011 / 63:22
I found it pretty enjoyable, but Cars was easily the worst-reviewed film that Pixar has put out so far, so perhaps on the one hand it didn’t seem the likeliest contender for a sequel. On the other hand, $500m in worldwide box office and a mouthwatering $1bn in merchandise sales… in the two weeks following its release… made the film reportedly the biggest earning property in Disney’s history, giving them something loved by boys in the way their princess films are loved by girls. So, here it is, the further adventures of Lightning McQueen and Mater, this time in an espionage tale with a car voiced by Michael Caine.
The first film received a very good score by Randy Newman, given short shrift by the soundtrack album, but it really boosted the film. It’s a bit of a surprise that he’s not back for the sequel – whether that’s Pixar’s choice or Newman’s, I don’t know – but he has a more-than-capable replacement in the shape of Michael Giacchino, whose previous score for the studio won him his first Oscar. I’ll come to it in a minute – but I think it’s fair to say this one is unlikely to do the same. Before the score, there are five songs. This is much as with the first film, where two of them stood out – Sheryl Crowe’s “Real Gone” was a very catchy tune and the Newman-penned, James Taylor-sung “Our Town” an absolute stunner. Nothing approaches that quality this time – Brad Paisley’s “Nobody’s Fool” is nice enough, the rest range from the forgettable to the downright awful.
In the score, Giacchino wastes no time in getting to his energetic, memorable main theme. With the electric guitar and frantic orchestration, it’s not all that far removed from Newman’s approach to the first film (with a spy vibe added to it) but it’s far closer to this composer’s past Speed Racer – which makes sense. The theme is in one way the best thing about the score, so fun and catchy it is – but it’s pretty slight, really, a fairly basic parody of the generic “spy music” sound and it’s presented so very frequently (rarely with much variation) that it threatens to become a little irritating before the album’s out.
A gentler piano theme (with a vaguely French feel) makes an occasional appearance and is full of charm, but it never really feels like it’s developed as it might have been; and elsewhere, when not doing his spy music parody, Giacchino is writing gentle bluegrass for Radiator Springs, or rather basic-level Herrmann parody for the suspense scenes. Nothing here is without merit – it’s by a composer of serious talent and a knack of delivering what a film needs – but as an album, there’s just something about it which means the whole seems rather less than the sum of its parts. It’s reasonably entertaining, but I doubt anyone would consider it amongst the composer’s finer efforts and it is left trailing in the dust of Newman’s far superior music for the first instalment, which was never given the kind of release it deserved. ***