Director; Pete Docter, Kemp Powers. Starring; Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton. Rated PG. Color. 100 minutes.
Pixar is at it again with a brand new original work, this time taking on the sumptuous world of jazz. Like most films from the studio, “Soul” has fun on the surface with a bigger message for both kids and adults. It raises the question, how important is the moment you’ve been waiting your entire life for in the grand scheme of things?
The always soulful Jamie Foxx plays Joe, a passionate jazz pianist who is stuck teaching music to a classroom full of kids who are taking the course for an easy grade. Other than one young trumpet player named Connie the knowledge Joe is attempting to instill is going in one ear and out the other with these kids. One day after class the school principal offers Joe tenure, which he is reluctant to take because he wants to play in the clubs professionally. His mother insists he take the offer because it is a guaranteed job.
As fate would have it, an old student of his offers him a job playing for the famous Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). He gets the gig then promptly falls to his death down an open manhole in the street. Joe comes to and is now a blue soul on his way towards the great beyond. Unwilling to give up, he breaks free and finds himself in the great before, a dimension in which souls are prepped to find their spark before traveling to Earth. These various dimensions are ran by different spiritual beings who are all named Jerry. In a desperate effort to return to Earth, Joe takes up training a troubled soul named 22 (Tina Fey). 22 has had mentors such as Carl Jung, Archimedes, and Muhammed Ali, none of which were successful getting through to her. She has no desire to go to Earth as she sees the place as meaningless. When his plot to use 22’s ‘Earth Ticket’ to return to his body backfires, the two head to ‘The Zone’, a world where humans float in a state of perfect harmony. They stumble upon a mystic boat captain named Moonwind (Graham Norton).
Moonwind is a total crack pot, but knows a way for Joe to get home. Unfortunately he and 22 jump the gun and 22 ends up in Joe’s body and Joe ends up in a cat. From there a series of fun antics ensue with Joe doing everything possible to make sure his big break isn’t ruined, even if 22 has to play the keys.
There’s a lot of good stuff going for “Soul”. For starters, the music is excellent and hopefully gives kids an ear to how great jazz is. The animation is also phenomenal, highlighted by the Jerry beings. They look like an odd yet fascinating version of a Picasso painting. The cast is also good, with the highlight being Graham Norton. Both as the pirate in ‘The Zone’ and a crazy sign spinning hippie on Earth, Norton brings a jolt of energy during the few times when the film lulls.
In it’s final act “Soul” brings its core message full circle. We all get caught up in that one moment, that one shot we were born for. In reality, the best way to look at our time on this Earth is not in moments but instead realize the fact that your entire life is the greatest moment we could ask for. “Soul” is not in the Mount Rushmore stratosphere for Pixar (“Toy Story”, “Up”, “Inside Out”, “Wall-E”), but it is in that next tear of very good. Definitely a must see for the fam.