Alongside Randy and Thomas Newman, Michael Giacchino seems to have gained the status as one of Pixar’s go-to-composers. His two previous scores for the studio, The Incredibles and Ratatouille were well received by film music fans and critics alike, the latter earning him his first Oscar nomination. Up would go several steps further, achieving the rare feat of winning the Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Grammy.
So, the ultimate question: is Up a good score. Certainly. Did it deserve all those awards? Unfortunately not. Despite being an enjoyable listening experience and a very functional score in the film, it is not one that deserves to stand alongside the clear classics, such as Star Wars and E.T., that have won those four major awards. Giacchino is undoubtedly one of the finest film composers working today, and Up is easily among the top ten scores of 2010, but it is definitely not the dominant classic that its award wins would lead you to believe.
One of the major deterrents of the score is Disney’s choice to release it as an MP3 download (as was also the case with Randy Newman’s more recent Toy Story 3). Speaking personally, I don’t really care whether I have a CD or an MP3 download, but that may be off-putting to those who prefer to have a nice shiny CD. The main problem with the album release of the score is the compressed MP3 format, which sounds rather dull on any decent stereo system, so make sure you have a pair of headphones handy if you want to enjoy it as best you can.
All that said though, there are several cues in this score that aren’t to be missed. Oddly enough, the main theme, first introduced by a gentle solo piano in “We’re in the Club Now “ is not heard at its best until “Up With End Credits”, where it’s given a great fully orchestral rendition. The best cues are “Married Life” and “Carl Goes Up “, with the former cue’s instrumentation matching the mood of the scene so well. Another theme of the score is for the character Muntz, which is given a light hearted performance in the cue “The Nickel Tour“, but then becomes a dark and menacing piece as it is realized that Muntz is in fact a deranged killer. This is followed by an excellent action piece: “Escape from Muntz Mountain”. “Giving Muntz the Bird” is another definite highlight, with the light percussion performances of the main theme with whimsical trumpets in the background. There are a few other motifs that are to be heard, but none of which are really of much interest.
In sum, this is a fine score and easily merits a recommendation. It is however, a wildly overrated one, and Giacchino’s previous scores for Pixar, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, are two that you should pick up first.
1. Up With Titles (0:53)
2. We’re in the Club Now (0:43)
3. Married Life (4:10)
4. Carl Goes Up (3:33)
5. 52 Chachki Pickup (1:14)
6. Paradise Found (1:03)
7. Walkin’ the House (1:03)
8. Three Dog Dash (0:51)
9. Kevin Beak’n (1:14)
10. Canine Conundrum (2:03)
11. The Nickel Tour (0:52)
12. The Explorer Motel (1:26)
13. Escape from Muntz Mountain (2:43)
14. Giving Muntz the Bird (1:57)
15. Stuff We Did (2:13)
16. Memories Can Weigh You Down (1:22)
17. The Small Mailman Returns (3:11)
18. He’s Got the Bird (0:29)
19. Seizing the Spirit of Adventure (5:19)
20. It’s Just a House (1:59)
21. The Ellie Badge (1:30)
22. Up With End Credits (7:38)
23. The Spirit of Adventure – performed by Craig Copeland (2:30)
24. Carl’s Maiden Voyage* (0:52)
25. Muntz’s Dark Reverie* (0:52)
26. Meet Kevin in the Jungle* (1:32)
* Bonus Track
Music Composed & Produced by Michael Giacchino
Orchestrations by Peter Boyer, Jennifer Hammond, Jack Hayes, Larry Kenton & Tim Simonec
Conducted by Tim Simonec
Academy Award for Best Original Score (Won)
Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score (Won)
BAFTA Award for Best Music (Won)
Grammy Award for Best Score (Won)
Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for “Married Life” (Won)
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