‘Soul’ is almost the perfect movie in every way imaginable.
Pixar Animation Studios knows how to make and leave an impression on young minds and on old. ‘Wow!’ was all I could think while watching the movie. It gets into levels of the supernatural, metaphysical and the philosophical never reached, but often explored, in their previous films. It has beautiful animation (of course), great music (a double meaning with the use of the word Soul), and an unquestionable storyline that’s outstanding, to say the least! I was glued to the screen throughout the entire feature. You will be, too.
Middle-school band teacher, Joe Gardner, voiced by the talented Jamie Foxx, is reminded of his early days in music when a young student of his plays her instrument with all the precision of a pro. He then begins telling the class about his first experiences with Jazz.
Later, he gets a call from a former student named Curley, played by the remarkable musician Questlove, from ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.’ Interestingly enough, it is ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’s’ Jonathan Batiste, who’s the instrument behind Joe’s piano playing, which is gorgeous, might I add.
Anyway, Curley is calling Joe to give him the opportunity of his life… the chance to play alongside the fabulous Dorothea Williams, played by the impressive Angela Bassett. He auditions for her; she’s impressed, and he’s told to get a good suit and be ready. Joe has finally made it! No one, not even his mother, believed in him. Well, Joe always saw it that way. And now, here he is!
Practically floating on air, poor Joe isn’t paying attention to where he’s walking and ends up stepping in a manhole… and falling. It isn’t a short drop if you get my meaning. Moments later, he’s on his way to a bright light or, ‘The Great Beyond’ he learns. No! He doesn’t want this! He was just about to have everything he has been fighting for all of his life! He screams into the nothingness that he, ‘Can’t die today!’ He tries to move back from the light because his, ‘Life was just getting started!’ He wants to get back to his body.
Several messages are playing out here. One, pay attention to where you walk, and two, don’t give up on your dreams because you never know when they’ll come true, no matter when and where you are. I love this about the movie. It’s quite profound.
Joe bails on the whole advancing forward idea and runs away, as much as a floating soul can. He ends up in a strange land where news souls await orders to go on their next mission. This is known as the ‘Great Before.’ There are many leaders or teachers in this land, all named Jerry, who train and prepare young celestial beings to make their trek to earth. Keeping in mind that Joe is a runaway of sorts, one of the leaders, the accountant, Terry, the only one not named Jerry, notices that the ‘count is off’ and begins to look for why.
While this plays out, Joe is searching for a way back to earth and is hoping to use one of the new souls as a vessel. Number 22, voiced by Tina Fey, needs a mentor. Joe is there to be that very thing. 22 is a rotten, spoiled little spirit who has been tutored by Gandhi and Mother Teresa and still doesn’t believe that life is worth living. 22 needs to find her ‘spark.’ Joe knows exactly what gave him his and decides 22 needs to learn some Jazz, even though she insists that she doesn’t like ‘music sounds.’ They soon venture on to the Hall of Everything. Nothing ignites a spark in her. To number 22, everything is, ‘Meh,’ except fire. She wants that to spread.
The movie has marvelous dialogue, such as 22 asking, ‘Is all this living worth dying for?’ At a pivotal moment when 22 is starting to understand, Joe throws a wrench in the works and reminds her that she only has a spark because, quite frankly, it’s his. He loves music, and he wants life. Joe goes on to says that she has to find her own spark. She knows she has to find her purpose but is beginning to feel worthless as if she’s not good enough. These scenes are so well written they’re heartbreaking.
I’ve given away some critical parts in the story and don’t wish to continue doing that, so I’ll wrap this up.
As it unfolds, ‘Soul’ is a lovely and inspiring story to observe. It’s intelligent and visceral with excellent messages and fantastic characters. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails, who handled the score, in fact, all of the musicians involved in this film, were sublime. There isn’t a good reason for you to miss this movie unless not wanting to be thoroughly entertained and delighted is your thing. ‘Soul’ is definitely one of Pixar’s most significant achievements yet, and that’s saying a lot.
Even the end credits, where they’re careful to let us know that they were at least six feet apart while making the film, are worth watching, so don’t miss them… the last four seconds are great!
Directors: Academy Award® winner Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers
Writers: Pete Docter & Mike Jones & Kemp Powers
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey Graham Norton, Rachel House, Richard Ayoade, Alice Braga, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove and Angela Bassett
Running Time: 1h 40m
Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy