SOME SPOILERS PRECEDED IN BOLD
Disney and Pixar have done it again, given us one of the best pictures of last year. Yes, Soul goes against what so many filmmakers scream foul about, an animated film rising above the level of Oscar’s Best Animated Film to Best Picture of 2020. This is hands down one of the most creative Pixar/Disney films in years, and yes, it is only available on Disney+ rightfully boosting subscriptions and more than making up for Disney’s live-action Mulan.
Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner, forty-something, part-time middle school music teacher and struggling jazz musician. Joe has an amazing opportunity to audition for a revered jazz singer at a nightclub and at the same time gets offered a full-time job at the school. His family urges him to forego his dream and finally take on stability not even being aware that he has the audition.
***EARLY PLOT SPOILER*** Joe secretly auditions and lands the job. He’s elated, runs around town, head in the clouds, dodging several accidents, and eventually falls down an uncovered manhole. He suddenly finds himself on somewhat of an escalator on its way into the light with several other souls. Yes, Joe is dead and his dream is dashed.
But, Joe will not go quietly. Instead of going to the “Great Beyond,” Joe escapes and ends up in the “Great Before,” where soul counselors prep the unborn with personality traits. This part-time teacher gets mistaken as a counselor and gets assigned the most troublesome unborn soul named “22” played by Tina Fey and the hilarity and warmth ensue. Of course, as with most Pixar films, a valuable lesson is learned. Telling you anything more would spoil all the fun.
The design of the whole film is so inventive and gorgeous. Counselors are abstract drawings while souls appear to be near bluish and white teardrops. The colors of the Great Before are total eye candy. The attention to detail is remarkable from piano keys to butterflies. The entire look of the film is awe-inspiring.
Most important, the music is an absolute delight to the ears. After all, what’s a movie entitled Soul without a sensational jazz score? The music is so passionate it sweeps us off our feet into Joe Gardner’s journey. It isn’t just the music that tantalizes, but it’s the entire unique sound design that easily transplants us from Joe’s real-world to the ethereal one.
Watching Joe and 22’s trek to achieve their goals has me reflecting on my own life. Yes, we cannot help but root for both of these characters, but what they end up with is not exactly what we expect, and the result is very emotional. Disney/Pixar has done the near-impossible, created one of the most life-affirming films about death.
This creativity deserves honoring, and should be nominated for Best Picture. Now is the time to get a subscription if you do not have one considering what the streaming giant has to offer – Star Wars, Marvel and the Disney library along with their original content, Star Girl, The Mandalorian and Disneynature. So, what are you waiting for? Time to get a little Soul.
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Directed by: Pete Docter
Release Date: December 25, 2020
Run Time: 100 Minutes