Latest reviews of new albums:
Finding Dory
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • Walt Disney Records / 2016 / 69m

Content these days to revisit their past triumphs alongside the more original stuff, it was I guess inevitable that at some stage Pixar would go back to the world of Finding Nemo even though it appeared to be an entirely self-contained movie.  They’ve done it by looking at one of that movie’s other main characters, the forgetful Dory, and her quest to find her parents.  Andrew Stanton directs again, and most of the first film’s cast and crew are back; it’s only been out for a short while but is already a huge, record-breaking hit and has garnered very positive reviews, mostly along the lines of “I didn’t think a sequel was needed, but now I’ve seen it I’m very glad it’s been made.”

Thomas Newman was an extremely unlikely-seeming choice to score the first film – not only was it the first feature-length Pixar movie not scored by his cousin Randy, it came after an extended period of the brilliant composer scoring very little other than grown-up dramas.  That his score was itself brilliant wasn’t such a surprise; the fact that he was able to bring all his quirky mannerisms to life so beautifully on a kids’ film was simply delightful.  Randy did an interview around the time jokingly complaining that he’d had to write so many notes for his Pixar films and then when they made a movie that could feature long-lined, beautiful ocean melodies they hired someone else – but Thomas’s score was certainly not short of notes, managing to capture not just the serenity of the ocean but also its dangers, the characters’ emotions and the more light-hearted moments with his usual combination of orchestra and dozens of exotic soloists, all done at a furiously fast pace.

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

The same formula is applied to Finding Dory, which plays very much as an extension of the first score, with the same sorts of moods and colours employed.  There’s a bit more action, and while some of the first score’s themes are briefly revisited, this is mostly fresh stuff (and the delightful piano theme for Nemo himself isn’t back other than the briefest of references early on in “One Year Later”).  As with the prior score, there is a dreamlike serenity to so much of it which is just a joy.  Back then I thought how well Newman managed to evoke a sense of floating in the deep sea with it, and I think that now, but really his Pixar score in between these two Wall-E features a similar sort of style at some points, and then I thought how well Newman managed to evoke a sense of joy and discovery with it.  So perhaps really, it’s just him doing what he does.

I mentioned the darker moments and they are quite interesting.  In “O, We’re Going Home” a jolly sea shanty mutates into an abrasive, textural soundscape which itself gradually glistens with light before segueing into full-on action without break in the following cue, “Jewel of Morro Bay”.  At the other end of the scale is the delightful “Gnarly Chop”, this score’s equivalent of the surfer-dude music for the turtles in the first one; a later (much less comic) variant, “Almost Home”, features some absolutely wonderful woodwind writing.  “Nobody’s Fine” is somewhere between the two styles, these delightful little colours flitting around some very big action gestures.  As with most Newman scores, the album is packed with a large number of very short cues, but as usual it is very carefully-assembled to provide a cohesive narrative.

What Finding Dory lacks that Finding Nemo had is a bit more genuinely heartfelt emotion – there are numerous magical moments but these are mostly achieved by colour and texture than by melody.  It’s a delightful listening experience all the same but I wouldn’t expect many people to like it as much as the first score.  A strong new theme to bind it all together would have pushed it right up, but it does function well even without that.  The album, like the first one, has a couple of tiny snippets of sound effects and a new cover of a classic song, with Sia Furler performing an interesting and original take on “Unforgettable”, intelligently orchestrated to feel at home with the score.

Rating: ***1/2

See also: Finding Nemo Thomas Newman | |

Tags: , , ,

  1. Momo (Reply) on Wednesday 6 July, 2016 at 16:44

    This was one of my most anticipated scores of the year, and I have to say I came away SLIGHTLY disappointed. It’s not bad at all (very good on its own merits in fact) but I kept waiting for some majestic reprisals of the material that made the first movie (not just the score) memorable to me… and it just never came (the themes themselves are only briefly hinted at). It didn’t do what How to Train Your Dragon 2 did, which is take advantage of the opportunity you only get when and if you get blessed with the chance to write a sequel score, and that’s to continue a musical franchise.

    But it was good.

  2. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Saturday 16 July, 2016 at 10:16

    Talking of ‘Musical Franchises’ Momo, Intrada have just released ‘Monkey King – 2’. Having provided an outstandingly brilliant score for ‘Monkey King’ CHRISTOPHER YOUNG was again contracted to create the sequel music. This time round, the ancient Chinese Deities leave their realm, and bring their intrigues and squabbling to Earth. Interestingly, 2016 is the Chinese Astrological year of the Yang Fire Monkey, and we’re now experiencing the Caos and Instability associated with that sign. It’s replaced in Feb 2017 by another unstable Zodiacal energy, the sign of ‘The Fire Rooster’.