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  • Composed by Mark Mancina
  • Walt Disney Records / 2013 / 53m

Pixar’s two Cars movies were both massive financial successes despite being the least critically well-received movies from the studio to date.  Now, Disney has decided to produce a spinoff (without Pixar), which instead of focusing on racing cars focuses on racing planes.  It’s called Planes.  The early reviews have a certain theme running through them, which is “If you thought Cars 2 was bad, wait till you see this.”  Also having a certain theme running through it, in a much more pleasant way, is Mark Mancina’s nice score.  Mancina was very popular during the 1990s before having a much later profile in the new century; for Planes he has plugged in all his drum machines from 1995 and written a score that is largely indistinguishable in style and technology from those he wrote around that time.  I haven’t seen the film yet so can’t say whether it was a deliberate decision to write in a cheesy, outdated style, or that’s just how Mancina still writes (which would go some way to explaining his lower profile if so); but cheesy or not, it’s certainly fun.

So, that main theme – it’s a warmhearted (but – sorry – extraordinarily cheesy) piece of Americana, in a style which will be familiar to Mancina fans.  It’s memorable, too (especially after you hear it for the 75th time during the course of the 40-minute score).  You hear it in two different forms – the warmhearted but cheesy Americana form, and the action form, which is essentially the same as the warmhearted but cheesy Americana form, with drum machines accompanying it.  There are also some nice little vignettes – a Life of Pi knock-off in “Dusty and Ishani” is really lovely and the a capella choral finale “Skipper’s Theme” is actually quite touching.  Much of it sounds so dated it’s hard to take it especially seriously, but you don’t need to take something seriously in order to enjoy it – and there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in Planes, which seems to have a certain innocence to it that you don’t often hear in scores for animations these days.  In fact I feel guilty for not liking it more than I do, but I can’t pretend it’s something it’s not – Mancina’s own enthusiasm is palpable, but it’s obviously keyboard music which has been transcribed for orchestra.  That “synthonic” approach was hugely popular a couple of decades ago and those who loved it then will love it now.  For me, yes it’s disposable, but there’s a charm running through it and some decent tunes, which do entertain.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Friday 9 August, 2013 at 07:20

    just heard one cue, “Dusty & Ishani” (peeped it after reading Edmund’s positive remarks in a post); certainly enjoyable, if unspectacular.

    so bizarre Mancina disappeared for so long, or at least out of the Hollywood limelight, only to return (not that this film looks any good). but given I’ve never really heard a BAD score by the man, his return is nothing but a welcome shift on the scene.

    Sure, only 5 or 6 scores of his I own, but he was probably the best MV composer behind Zimmer in the 90’s (WE AGREE?!#%). at least he didn’t compose something as awesome as Armageddon like Rabin and then never write anything close to as COOL, instead seeming to opt out of the business entirely. much more graceful tact.

    and I still think the Mancina-Rabin cheesefest known as Con Air is bizarrely underrated and, agaaaaain, COOL as shit; RETURN TO 1996 and listen to the anthemic? ‘The Discharge’ or the awful but amazing action suite(?) “Fire Truck Chase”; you don’t really hear electric guitars in scores that sweet by any film composer anymore..

  2. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Friday 9 August, 2013 at 07:43

    awful or amazing?


  3. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Friday 9 August, 2013 at 07:58

    Oh boo. A whole star less than that dronefest by McCreary you just reviewed? This is the most fun score I’ve heard the entire year. I absolutely love the theme. There’s nothing cheesy about it to me – it’s perhaps not taking itself entirely seriously but it is definitely sincere in its emotion. But I’d be lying if I said that a certain nostalgia wasn’t playing a role in my like of this score, too.

  4. Matt (Reply) on Tuesday 13 August, 2013 at 04:37

    I agree with Edmund. This score is nothing but fun and has been getting plenty of listens for the last week in my car, just because of the nostalgia factor. Mancina has proven that he can write a great melody. It’s nice to hear from him again. I’ve been waiting for something else from since the great August Rush score. Planes is definitely a four star score.

  5. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Saturday 31 August, 2013 at 07:14

    Bay’s first film.

  6. Jason Farcone (Reply) on Thursday 26 September, 2013 at 19:58