This soundtrack is an odd bird. There’s a smattering of clips from R.E.M.’s film score, a few songs from the band, a couple of performances by Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton, a handful of pieces of source music from significant Kaufman appearances, and one song that doesn’t fit any of these categories but does show up briefly in the movie. I’m sure there’s an audience for each category, but I have to think their intersection is a very small group.
I remember thinking the score did a good job fitting the movie when I saw it, but it’s hard to get much sense of it from any of these clips. Most of them are about two minutes long, so there’s no time for them to really build a mood. I do particularly like “Miracle” and “Milk And Cookies”, which come from the tail end of the film as Kaufman deals with his impending death and his performance at Carnegie Hall – there’s a bittersweet resignation to the music that conveys the sentiment of the plot quite well. An orchestral version of “Man On The Moon” is good, but almost unrecognizable – it was only when I got the DVD-Audio version of Automatic For The People that I recognized a few elements from the song that had made the transition.
The original “Man On The Moon” is one of three R.E.M. performances on the album. Of those, “The Great Beyond” is the only new composition. It’s one of my favorite songs of the band’s three-piece period, thoughtful and mellow but still up-tempo enough to have some energy to it. The guitar-bass-keyboard combo provides an atmospheric backdrop to Michael Stipe’s verses and then kicks into gear with a fuller sound, including some strings, in the choruses. Unfortunately, like almost every other track on this album, it’s marred by the inclusion of dialogue clips from the movie. The third performance, “This Friendly World”, features Carrey singing along with Stipe as both Kaufman and Clifton. It’s amusing, especially when Carrey/Kaufman demands that he and Stipe sing every other word of one verse.
Carrey/Clifton also absolutely butchers “I Will Survive”. Since that’s what he’s setting out to do, I’ll call this one a highly successful failure. “Rose Marie” and “One More Song for You” are original Kaufman performances from the archives, and the man could carry a tune quite well, but they’re probably more memorable for novelty value – “Hey, Latka can sing!” Bob James’ theme from Taxi, “Angela”, fits in rather well with the other instrumental pieces. It’s understated but I think it holds up rather well as one of TV’s most memorable instrumental themes. The Sandpipers’ “Mighty Mouse Theme” is another fun and obvious piece of source music.
As for Exile’s “Kiss You All Over” . . . I got nothin’.
The problem is that the album is both schizophrenic and short. There’s not enough orchestral music for this to appeal to fans of film scores, there’s not enough comedy for humor fans, and there’s not enough original Kaufman material to appeal to his fans. Once upon a time, the presence of “The Great Beyond” might have made this somewhat worthwhile for R.E.M. fans, but now you can get that song without the film dialogue on the band’s Warner Bros. best-of, and “Man On The Moon” is there as well. But if you’re looking for eclectic eccentricity, this might work for you.
- Mighty Mouse Theme (Here I Come to Save the Day) – The Sandpipers (song) (1:53)
- The Great Beyond – R.E.M. (song) (5:22)
- Kiss You All Over – Exile (song) (3:37)
- Angela (Theme from Taxi) – Bob James (instrumental song) (1:27)
- Tony Thrown Out – R.E.M. (score) (1:07)
- Man on the Moon – R.E.M. (song) (5:13)
- This Friendly World – R.E.M. and Jim Carrey (song) (3:03)
- Miracle – R.E.M. (score) (2:53)
- Lynne and Andy – R.E.M. (score) (1:46)
- Rose Marie – Andy Kaufman (song) (2:36)
- Andy Gets Fired – R.E.M. (score) (1:07)
- I Will Survive – Tony Clifton (song) (1:49)
- Milk & Cookies – R.E.M. (score) (1:59)
- Man on the Moon (Orchestral) – R.E.M. (score) (1:51)
- One More Song for You – Andy Kaufman (score) (1:16)
Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 37:08