Review: James and the Giant Peach
4.5 / 5 Stars
Whilst exploring that strange and exotic place we like to call eBay.com, I came across something very odd. I love looking up auctions for film score composers, so I decided to look up their Randy Newman auctions. To my surprise, I found an auction for the soundtrack to James And The Giant Peach, in which the seller indicated that the CD was Out of Print. Could this be? A rare Randy Newman score? Indeed it was, so I put in my bid, and within a few days I was popping the CD into my CD player, unaware of what to expect because I had not seen the film. To my surprise, this CD is a Newman Tour de Force. Indeed, amazing is an understatement when describing this soundtrack.
Randy Newman, fresh off of Toy Story, brings us his classic use of Americana and rhythm in this wonderful CD. Newman also composed the five songs that appear in the film, which are "My Name Is James," "That's The Life," "Eating The Peach," "Family," and "Good News." All of these songs are inventive, witty and ingenious in execution. "My Name Is James" is a very touching, heartfelt opening track, while "That's The Life" consists of Richard Dreyfuss giving us his best New York cabby impression. The best song on the CD, however, is "Eating The Peach." Newman, while signing copies of Toy Story 2 in a music store in Florida, told a good friend of mine that he really loves that song because he used the lyrics found in the book by Roald Dahl, and wanted to incorporate Dahl's work into the film because he is such a great author. With the addition of Newman's flair for the zany, the song steals the show.
The score is equally as good as the songs, if not better. Newman begins the score with the "Main Title" which is a beautifully depressing violin solo, reminiscent of his later score for "Pleasantville." However, "Clouds" is where the main theme for the whole film shows up, and it is brilliant. Melodious, and whimsical, with Newman's exceptional "mickeymousing" ability apparent throughout, "Clouds" is one of the best pieces of score Newman has written. The rest of the music is very waltz-like, which is very apparent in "Giant Peach" as James and his two horrible aunts discover the giant peach barely hanging off of a tree in their yard. This "Newman Waltz" appears again in the final track "A Place Where Dreams Come True." Newman also pays tribute to Gershwin a bit in "New York City," using a lot of horn and prominent piano, yet still incorporating the themes for the film. It, "A Place Where Dreams Come True," "Clouds," and "Empire State Building" are among the best tracks on this album. The final track, "Good News," is sung by Newman, and is a great, jazzy song. Even those who may find Newman's voice to be less than perfect will find this to be a great ending to the film.
In his second collaboration with Disney, the first being Toy Story, Randy Newman shines. It would have been interesting to see how Danny Elfman would have gone about scoring this film, as he did in The Nightmare Before Christmas. However, Henry Selick (director of both "Nightmare" and "James") is in good hands here. This album, in my opinion, is better than Toy Story, due to Newman's unsuppressed creativity running rampant throughout. Toy Story, because of it being a very experimental movie, felt like Newman had been toned down a bit by the Disney execs. Here, he is not. Toy Story is great Newman, and James And The Giant Peach is classic Newman.
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