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Cars 3
  • Composed by Randy Newman
  • Walt Disney Records / 2017 / 50m

It may be the least critically-loved series in Pixar’s roster, but Cars is a very lucrative franchise so a third film was probably always likely to be on the cards.  The previous entry was easily the worst film the studio has put out but the third is finding a lot more favour, moving away from the very odd spy theme back to its roots.  This time round, Lightning McQueen finds himself being overshadowed by Jackson Storm, a new and more technologically-advanced racer… could it be the end of the road for our hero?

Lots of comp0osers have now written fine music for Pixar films, but my first musical thought about the studio is always Randy Newman, who played such a pivotal role in their early films.  His contributions may be more fleeting these days but it’s always great to have him back on board; this is his eighth Pixar score.  The sound doesn’t vary that much between them – his music is so full of joy (I have said before that I doubt there is a more sustained musical expression of joy than Randy Newman’s Pixar scores) and Cars 3 is a lot of fun.

Randy Newman

It actually starts off on a slightly darker note, with the action track “Storm’s Winning Streak” conveying plenty of excitement.  This continues into the lengthy second cue “When All Your Friends are Gone / Crash” – we’re in pure orchestral territory, with the guitars and drums the composer used to inject flavour into the first score not on display.  As ever, there are absolutely loads of melodies, often coming and going within seconds of each other.

The first really emotional content comes in “A Career on a Wall / Electronic Suit” which is a tremendous cue; it starts off with those heavenly swooning strings Newman’s been writing throughout his career (including in the orchestral arrangements backing his songs four decades ago), diverts briefly into a playful new theme (explored further in the immediately subsequent “Drip Pan”) – it’s just great.

We’re back into action territory next in “McQueen’s Wild Ride”, which brings back one of the themes from the first score – nice to hear it again.  Then comes one of those rolling melodies that so typifies Newman’s music for animation to open up “Biggest Brand in Racing” – it’s the musical embodiment of a jolly redneck ambling down the street.  It builds up into something more dramatic, the full forces of the massive studio orchestra on display.  “Fireball Beach” introduces a bit of pageantry not dissimilar to that heard in the first score (though it’s a new melody).  Another truly lovely little piece later on is “If This Track Could Talk”, so full of melancholy (and a melody that will be very familiar to Randy Newman fans – and it’s not from Cars).

The later portions of the score are dominated by action and indeed dominated by the main action theme from the first score.  After another emotional sucker-punch in “Letters About You”, it all kicks off in “Smokey Starts Training / A Blaze of Glory”, which travels much ground (including some more sedate territory and one very Toy Story-like moment) before arriving at its final section laden with grandeur, and then the action doesn’t really let off after that point until the delightful climax “The Fabulous Lightning McQueen”.  That sequence of cues is done really well: the trademark Newman/Pixar bright brass and strings battling away with some much darker (but, inevitably, always melodic) material.

Randy Newman’s Pixar scores are so consistent in style and indeed quality, it’s highly improbable that your reaction to Cars 3 will be much different from your reaction to the rest of them.  I’ve said before that I think he’s such a fine, underrated film composer for serious dramas, it’s a shame in a way that his occasional forays into film music over the last decade or two have been so completely dominated by animation, but the flip side of that is that we’ve got this great, joyous collection of music.  IT’s so distinctive, so far removed from what everyone else does for these things, that despite its great consistency I always find it fresh.  It’s not for everyone, but you know what you’re going to get with one of these – and that’s exactly what Newman has delivered.  The smile crossed my face as soon as that familiar sound fired up at the start of the album and it was still there 50 minutes later when it pulled up on arriving at its destination.

Rating:
****
Another joy-laden Pixar delight from Newman

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  1. Ad de Nijs (Reply) on Friday 30 June, 2017 at 11:49

    I so much loved the ‘sad’ and reminiscing parts of the score too.
    Cars3 will be in today’s update of our Spotify-demo for http://www.screensoundradio.com
    which means it will play tracks for the upcoming 4 weeks.
    I actually think you might going to like that radiostation as it focuses on the quality
    soundtracks from around the world.

    BTW, I posted your review on the Soundtrack Portal.

  2. tiago (Reply) on Thursday 20 July, 2017 at 06:15

    I was quite shocked to know that the great Don Davis was one of the orchestrators of this score. His only works on Hollywood movies on this decade were only orchestrating Randy Newman’s scores for Toy Story 3 and now Cars 3. I was listening to Toy Story 3 on the other day, and actually you can find Davis’ fingerprints right on the now classic scene of the toys’ slow and fateful descent into the incinerator (1:09 on “The Claw”, which reminded me from “That’s Gotta Hurt” from The Matrix). In any case, apparently his friendship with Newman is the only thing that makes him work again on a Hollywood movie, and that’s not encouraging since Newman himself is not exactly prolific these days, only scoring Pixar sequels.

    Two great composers, whose voice Hollywood music misses enourmously these days.

    • Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 20 July, 2017 at 22:01

      Don Davis actually has a score coming out pretty soon. Tokyo Ghoul. His first release since Matrix Revolutions…