Original Soundtrack

Man on the Moon

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    5
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AllMusic Review by

It could be argued that without REM's hit single "Man on the Moon" there wouldn't have been an Andy Kaufman biopic in 1999, so it was only appropriate that director Milos Forman hired the band to write the score for his film. Based on score excerpts on the Man on the Moon soundtrack, they've made some intriguing music, drawing heavily from the spirit and textures of Automatic for the People, but the record itself only give hints of the score. Since this is a soundtrack, and not a score album, there are other songs missing here that are heard in the movie, and as a '90s soundtrack, it also has snippets of dialogue scattered throughout its entirety. As a matter of fact, it often feels like the music is merely a device to connect dialogue and comedic songs, including Kaufman's signature "Mighty Mouse Theme," two songs performed by Jim Carrey (one as Kaufman, one as his alter-ego Tony Clifton), a duet between REM and Carrey's Kaufman and Clifton, and an archival Kaufman performance from a 1982 appearance on David Letterman. Throw in REM's "Man on the Moon" plus their tailored-for-the-film "The Great Beyond" (a solid but blatant, uplifting rewrite of "Man on the Moon"), Bob James' "Angela (Theme from Taxi)," and Exile's "Kiss You All Over," and you have precious little original REM score on this album -- so little that it often feels like it's missing from the album. What is here is very good and very evocative, and it whets the appetite for a full-fledged score. Then again, that wouldn't have been as commercial as a soundtrack, and this the only reasonable explanation of why there isn't more score here -- it would have broken the conventions of pop soundtrack. However, Man on the Moon's soundtrack is weaker for it, since it just feels like a bunch of filler and isolated comedy pieces, save for "The Great Beyond." That might make it a good souvenir of the film, and it may even capture the movie's spirit, but it makes for an unsatisfying listening experience.

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