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CD Reviews: The Incredibles and The Forgotten



The Incredibles ***

MICHAEL GIACCHINO

Disney

19 tracks - 56:00

Do you remember what it was like waking up on Saturday mornings back when you were a child? How you would climb out of bed before the sun came up, click on the television, and stare at the test patterns until it was time for cartoons to begin? Can you recapture that feeling of anticipation that was suddenly fulfilled with the arrival of the loud, brassy fanfare that opened most cartoons? If you can, then you have a sense of the glee that bubbled up within me when "The Glory Days" from Michael Giacchino's new score to The Incredibles started up. In a year when so many scores are taking themselves so seriously, it's a delight to have a score that does nothing more than entertain and reawaken a childish enthusiasm for the movies.

Given that The Incredibles is a Pixar effort, expectations were high and, as usual, they were met and surpassed with seemingly little effort. Knowing that Pixar is behind the production, you might be wondering where the inevitable Newman score is hiding -- and who this Giacchino fellow is. That would be an understandable reaction, considering Randy Newman scored all Pixar movies until the last one, Finding Nemo, when the task fell to his cousin Thomas. But for this tale of superheroics, the director decided to turn in a different direction and ask a master of the genre to assist: John Barry.

Unfortunately, John Barry had to leave the project, and you can almost imagine his replacement Michael Giacchino (who you might know from his excellent work on Alias, another program of superheroics) being told to deliver a score that sounds like John Barry. Giacchino fulfilled this request quite nicely. I urge you to try and listen to the brassy wails of "Kronos Unveiled" and not think of the dastardly Goldfinger explaining his plan to James Bond. Indeed, even one of the main themes is too strongly influenced by the familiar theme to Barry's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. But Giacchino wisely knew that slavishly imitating Barry would not work in this heartfelt, yet tongue-in-cheek movie. So he pushes the sound over the top, resulting in a sound that would fit in an Austin Powers movie as well as it does in The Incredibles.

For all the talk of how Giacchino channeled Barry for this score, there's another strong presence. The Incredibles is full of the swagger of the 1960s scores that relied on big band swing and cool jazz to convey a sense of fun, wonder, possibility and suspense. And no composer was better at that sound than Henry Mancini. In "Life's Incredible Again," Giacchino scores this celebration of life's purpose in a swinging 3/4 with the melody in a saxophone chorus with harmon-muted trumpets punching hits overhead. Or what about the high-hat and toms under the vibraphone of "Lava in the Afternoon?" This is simply delightful scoring made to awaken the Saturday morning child in all of us.

When I reviewed Giacchino's music for Alias, I mentioned that the composer's mastery at helping an audience live in the moment by deftly switching from style to style makes his scores fascinating and, occasionally, frustrating. That feature is still in evidence in this, his first major motion picture score, but overall, he makes the jump from television quite well. Giacchino is going to be a major composing presence in the years to come, and I can't wait to see what he does next, especially if it is more in his own voice.     -- Andrew Granade




The Forgotten *** 1/2

JAMES HORNER

Varèse Sarabande 362 066 619 2

11 tracks - 59.35

James Horner has returned. After the near collapse of any kind of originality in his music after the monstrous success of Titanic, James Horner has finally hit a new stride of interesting and enjoyable scores. Except for the excess of Windtalkers and Troy, Horner has come up with consistently enjoyable scores from his Oscar-nominated A Beautiful Mind and House of Sand and Fog, to more sentimental fare like Radio and Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius. Even though his score for The Missing, which I may be in the minority in liking, got bogged down with his danger motif, it still includes one of Horner's most stirring action themes.

With The Forgotten, the hit movie about a woman named Telly (Julianne Moore) who mourns her son's death only to be told that he never existed, Horner has created one of his more evocative scores. A fine psychological thriller which unfortunately falls apart big time in the last act, Horner resisted the use of his danger motif, and thus, the score is scarier, and creepier than anything he's ever written. Working in a genre that has Philip Glass or Mark Snow written all over, Horner tackles this thriller with gusto and mostly synthesizers.

Just imagine the opening credit music to Aliens and you might get some idea where Horner is going with this score. The music is certainly on the side of Telly. Even though everyone around her seems sane and understanding, the music hints otherwise and that helps the movie immensely. The first cue, "An Unsettling Calm" is the main titles and the creepy music is there and rarely lets up. That may result is a sort of sameness as you listen to the CD, but I never got bored. That's because Horner surprised me with such elements as a toy piano that not only makes sense in the world of the movie, but it adds uniqueness to the score.

To liven up the score a little bit, Horner adds a little action music in cues like "Containment of a Darker Purpose" which certainly quickens the pace. The movie rarely goes for the cheap scare, and Horner doesn't either. Even when the movie goes into an unbelievable netherworld of its own creation, Horner's music connects us to Earth while everything else literally flies off of it.

Horner will always be a controversial composer, and I've certainly been down on him for a couple of years, but his current scores have given me hope that Horner is maturing into a productive later period in his career.     -- CW

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