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Soul Movie Review - Beautiful but Complicated

Is achieving your life’s dream enough?

Reviewed by on Dec 21, 2020
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Pixar’s Soul. Is the animation great? Does it offer a clear message? Will all ages get into it? Check out our movie review!

 

 

In Soul, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a frustrated middle school band teacher, dreams of performing jazz music onstage. After impressing a famous musician at the Half Note Jazz club, he will get his chance. When an accident causes his soul to be separated from his body and go toward the Great Beyond, it escapes to the Great Before, a world where souls develop personalities, quirks, and traits before being sent off to Earth. There, Gardner must mentor 22(Tina Fey) a soul in training who has been there far too long due to a negative view of the idea of life. Joe needs to help 22 want to live and then return to his body on Earth before it dies.

Joe leads his Middle School band classJoe leads his Middle School band classCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

All That Jazz

Middle school band teacher Joe tries to teach his class a Jazz tune but only Connie (Cora Champommier) who plays trombone is any good, and she is great! She gets lost in her music as Joe, on piano, does. When his principal tells Joe he can now go full-time as a teacher with benefits etc., he doesn’t say yes right away. Teaching band isn’t his dream. He wants to be a fulltime Jazz musician in a group. His mom Libba (Phylicia Rashad), who runs a tailor shop, is thrilled. Joe’s dad was a musician and was never financially secure. When his former student Curley (Questlove) tells Joe that famous jazz musician and sax player Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) will play at a local jazz club where Curley will play the drums, Joe can’t wait to go.

Joe (Jamie Foxx) can't wait to see Dorothea's quartet at the jazz club.Joe can't wait to see Dorothea's quartet at the jazz club.Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Chance of a Lifetime

When Dorothea’s group suddenly needs a pianist for their gig, Joe rushes over, plays for her, impresses her with his skill and jazzy style and she tells him he’s got the gig, at least for that night, maybe more.

Dorothea (Angela Bassett) is impressed with Joe's jazzy piano playingDorothea is impressed with Joe's jazzy piano playingCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Thrilled, Joe is oblivious to traffic and anything around him so he falls into an open manhole and is knocked unconscious or…worse. He wakes as a funny little blue being and in a dark place on an escalator to a light above. Others tell him this is the way to The Great Beyond. He isn’t dead yet. He yells that he can’t die now. He finally has a great gig to play! He jumps off the escalator and falls into another “land”. It’s the Great Before, a place where new souls, that look like little baby versions of Joe’s soul, are looked after by counselors as they prepare to go to Earth.

After his good news, Joe (Jamie Foxx) is about to have an accidentAfter his good news, Joe is about to have an accidentCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Can’t Go Home?

Joe learns that this is where personalities are formed. Also souls need a “spark”, something to inspire them to live. He tries to leap through an Earth portal with some of the new souls but he is zapped back to the Great Before every time! The only way he can be allowed to return to his body is to mentor a young soul. While a soul counter from the Great Beyond notices Joe is missing and starts searching for him, Joe is assigned soul #22, a cynical, unhappy little soul who hasn’t found her spark or any desire to experience life. 22 has gone through many mentors over a long time. After seeing his life projected before him, Joe decides that he’s accomplished nothing but he is sure his personal “spark” is jazz piano.

In the Great Before, Counselors match Joe with 22In the Great Before, Counselors match Joe with 22Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

The Hall of Everything

After passing through a huge hall that shows 22 and Joe various careers and pastimes that might interest 22, nothing really appeals to her. 22 shows Joe “The Zone”, a land where lost souls between physical and spiritual existence, dwell. This is where Moonwind (Graham Norton), a soul dedicated to getting other souls reunited with their bodies and change their Earthly lives, agrees to help them.  Joe meditates as suggested by Moonwind and sees that his body is now in a hospital. He leaps through a portal to Earth so quickly that 22 falls with him. Since there is a therapy cat Mr. Mittens sitting on Joe’s lap, there is a mix-up and 22’s soul goes into Joe and Joe’s soul into the cat! Whoops.

22 and Joe with Moonwind22 and Joe with MoonwindCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Switched

Since his handler will take Mr. Mittens to the next patient, he and Joe have to escape the hospital together hoping to somehow switch back. On the street in his hospital gown, Joe, now 22 is thought to be an escaped crazy person. The two eat pizza. 22, who has never eaten anything, loves it! They learn that to take the gig with Dorothea Joe must be at the club by 6:30 that night. But, they run into her on the street. “Joe” is in a hospital gown eating pizza and with a fat cat on his shoulder. She thinks he’s wacko and doesn’t want him to play the gig now. Curley thinks if Joe shows up looking normal and dapper, she might change her mind.

Joe's soul tries to interest 22 in Earthly pleasures, like pizza!Joe's soul tries to interest 22 in Earthly pleasures, like pizza!Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

The Gig and the Meaning of Life

Can Joe and 22 switch bodies and can Joe clean up and look great by that night to get the job with Dorothea? Will 22 gain a reason to live by experiencing life on Earth? And, is being a career jazz pianist really Joe’s bliss in life or has he been fooling himself?

The Soul Counter tells a Counselor he has lost a soulThe Soul Counter tells a Counselor he has lost a soulCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Wrapping Up

Soul is a beautifully and creatively animated film but we expect that and nothing less from Pixar. The animation and perhaps music and really nice voice acting are the major plusses for this ambitious movie.

Joe and Soul JoeJoe and Soul JoeCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

On the more semi-negative side, a film contemplating the meaning of life and death and telling us that we need to basically find our bliss by enjoying the small things and that each person’s big life goal and dream might not be so important is a little hard to grasp especially for younger audiences although they should enjoy the visuals and comic moments.

The wrap up of the overly-complicated plot isn’t really all that satisfying. If a life’s dream is no longer so important…uh, what is? Just being glad you are alive to enjoy the little things? And we don’t really see who little soul 22 will be and what she will pursue in life.

Little 22 is a rebellious soulLittle 22 is a rebellious soulCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Little developments are a bit confusing, for instance, when they are switched, sometimes Joe’s voice comes out of kitty Mr. Mittens (who is adorable but then I’m a cat person) or sometimes, before switching back, it comes out of Joe’s body. Huh?

The Pixar film Inside Out is similar in theme as it deals with our complicated emotions but in a much less complicated storyline that worked well for all ages. Soul might just be more aimed at adults.

If we were just reviewing the “look” of the film, with its varied and creative animation, we would go a full 5 stars but when we add in the more complicated, flawed and “deep” storyline, we award 4. 

Soul Movie Rating: 4

Soul Movie Review - Beautiful but Complicated | Disney | PixarCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

See Soul streaming exclusively on Disney+ Christmas Day!