Film Score Friday: ‘Cars 2’ by Michael Giacchino

PIXAR began taking the cinematic world by storm in 1995 with the original Toy Story. Part of what made that film so good was the songs and score by Randy Newman, who would go on to write music for the next three PIXAR films. For the fifth film by the studio, Randy’s cousin Thomas Newman stepped up to the plate for the Finding Nemo score. It began to look like the Newman scoring dynasty had the monopoly on Disney’s golden goose.

That was until PIXAR brought in an outsider to direct their sixth film, The Incredibles. Brad Bird brought on young TV composer Michael Giacchino to write the Bond-tastic music and the rest is history. Giacchino has since won an Oscar, and was nominated for another, for his work with PIXAR and now has come full circle with another international spy influenced score for Cars 2.

There are few things that are a certainty in life, and it is starting to become obvious that one of them is Giacchino’s PIXAR scores are some of the greatest pieces of music written in the last decade. Cars 2 is absolutely not an exception to that rule. The music is fun, exciting and catchy as all hell, I instantly find myself whistling and humming along with the tracks. I have only been with the CD for a week and I already count it as being as good as the best scores from last year.

The biggest worry going into this soundtrack was that the spy genre is already ground covered by Giacchino in the PIXAR pantheon. There was concern that Giacchino might not be able to help repeating himself and that the music might sound stale. All of those issues are put to rest almost immediately as the second score track on the album trumpets the new sounds with all the bravado expected of a Giacchino/PIXAR score.

Much like the original Cars, and much unlike any other PIXAR film, the soundtrack begins with several pop songs that were either written or arranged for the movie. The original film had three amazing songs that had just as much play in my iPod as any of the score tracks. This time around only one of the songs excites me in that sort of way, although the JPop-esque song Polyrhythm is infectious enough to burrow into my brain.

James Taylor and Randy Newman wrote a beautiful ballad for the original movie, and it served as an emotional lynch pin for that film, absolutely nothing like that appears on this album. While it is true Giacchino isn’t known for writing songs for his movies like Newman does, it would still be nice if the movie had something other than pop music to balance with the score.

Three Favorite Tracks:

It’s Finn McMissile By Michael Giacchino: This is the big track on the album for me, every Giacchino score has had one longer track that encapsulates almost everything about what makes that score special, and this is it for Cars 2. It starts of slow, in a tension building, spy movie sort of way, it builds with subtle hints at the main spy theme up and down until if finally plays out in all of it’s full glory towards the end of the track. The fast percussion and guitars in this track work in the perfect way, in strong contrast to Green Lantern which used many of those same elements to no good effect last week.

History’s Biggest Loser Cars By Michael Giacchino: If any track could ever get mistaken for something from The Incredibles this would be it. It has all of the intrigue present in that film, but with a sound and tone that fits so well in with everything else in Cars 2. The track is exactly the kind of music I want to be sneaking around to, in fact while listening to it and writing this piece I had to look over my shoulder a bunch because I felt like I was accessing top secret information!

Collision of Worlds By Robbie Williams & Brad Paisley: This is the one pop song on the album I really like. It is very obvious, and the song is a gimmick through and through, but it is so damned catchy. Basically Robbie Williams sings about the British life style while county star Brad Paisley sings of the American differences. Basically in song form it is a lesson that we are all basically people, and our differences are not as great as our similarities. A far better message in a pop song than smacking strippers or beating dogs, so on that level it is already a plus one.

Least Favorite Tracks:

Nobody’s Fool By Brad Paisley: From one Brad Paisley song to another, this is the biggest swing and miss on the album. I mentioned James Taylor’s song from the original Cars, well this was the closest attempt at a song with a heart on this album. I am no country fan, but the Rascal Flatts song on the original album was one of my favorites, and Brad Paisley was a big part of one of my favorite tracks on this album, but this song just doesn’t do it for me. It just doesn’t feel apart of the same album as all of the other songs, and there is no element of the movies music within, which would have been a nice touch to tie it all together.

At the end of the day this is another smashing success for Giacchino. His PIXAR scores are always a treasure, and while the movie might disappoint some folks, the music surly will not. In fact, the only thing keeping this album from a five out of five is the inconsistency of the pop songs at the top.

Total Score for Cars 2:

4.5 out of 5

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