Last night after enjoying all the festivities with my family, we decided to watch the latest Disney/Pixar film, ‘Soul’ and I can report we were not disappointed by any means. I am pleased that Disney/Pixar has kept up with their reputation of producing beautifully made animation films.
The story revolves around jazz musician, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Fox), who is a part time music teacher at a local school and is given an opportunity to finally become a full time teacher with a regular pay, pension, benefits, etc. You would think that most people would be excited as this is a sound, secure job but you can tell that Joe is really looking to do something different with his music. Not twenty minutes into the film, one of Joe’s former students, Curley (voiced by Questlove), calls him to tell him they need someone to fill in at the last minute for a gig at a local jazz club, performing with the well known jazz musician, Dorothea Williams (voiced by Angela Bassett), and he is estatic.
He is on the way home all excited when an unfortunate accident takes place and Joe leaves this earth and wakes up in the afterlife. This is when the story takes a turn and gets very interesting.
Once Joe realizes that he is headed to the Great Beyond, he panics and does everything he can to get back to his body on Earth as he does not want to miss his big break! During this time in the afterlife, he is assigned as a mentor to 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), a soul that does not have any desire to go to Earth as she does not think there is anything worth while there. Joe manages to get 22 to go to earth but instead of Joe’s soul returning to his body, he ends up in that of a cat while 22 ends up in his body. Panic ensues as Joe only has so much time to get his body prepared for the gig and they have to go through a ‘mediator’ named Moonwind (voiced by Graham Norton) in order to get Joe and 22’s souls back in the right bodies.
It is during this time that 22 begins to experience things on earth as a person that she is beginning to appreciate and Joe also begins to realize things about himself that he had not before. The switch does take place, Joe gets back into his body and is able to perform his gig, but it is with the sacrifice of 22 going back to the afterlife and not having a body. Once Joe performs with the band, he realizes it still did not fulfill him completely and he thought it would be a more exciting experience than expected. Joe knows 22 has changed and is ready to come to earth as a person and he sacrifices himself to allow 22 to go to earth. Because of this, the Great Ones (what I can only think of calling them) allow Joe to also go back because of his kind act.
Now on to the comments about the film. First, the animation is, of course, amazing and absolutely beautiful so this did not disappoint at all. The characters of Joe and his mom, (voiced by Phylicia Rashad), are by far my favorites and really make the film. The music – outstanding! Wonderful music that fits this film perfectly, which if anyone is interested in knowing, is put together with the consultation of Questlove.
Also significant about this film that I am sure many will notice is that it is voiced by a predominantly African American cast. I read a great review about the film and she noted (Tasha Robinson, Disney Plus) the same as well, stating, “… The film, which now debuts directly on Disney Plus, is another groundbreaker, with the studio’s first Black protagonist and first focus on Black community, relationships, and art.
Soul will come in for endless analysis of the details that give it shape. One of its subtlest but most daring touches is that it doesn’t have significant white characters at all — it seems natural enough that the people in Joe’s most immediate circle of family and friends are Black, but it’s also notable that the authority figures in his world, from minor characters (the principal, a doctor, a random cop) to major ones (all the Great Before counselors and accountants) are also people of color, from a range of genders and ethnicities. That choice, and the view of Black community life — particularly Joe’s relationship with his mother, and a barbershop scene that defines how Joe relates to his friends — will certainly be studied and examined at length.”
If I have to find any fault with the film, it is only that it is a little more ‘deep’ as far as the subject matter than I expected. This is not necessarily a bad thing but I do think it can go over younger kids’ heads. I was very moved by it myself and loved this film. Definitely another great addition to the Disney/Pixar catalogue of animated films.