Soul review


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What is it that makes you...YOU? Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film SOUL introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions. Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”), written by Kemp Powers & Mike Jones, and produced by Academy Award nominee Dana Murray (Pixar short “Lou”), SOUL also stars the voice talents of Phylicia Rashad, Questlove and Daveed Diggs. It features original jazz music by globally renowned musician Jon Batiste, and Oscar® winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (“The Social Network”), from Nine Inch Nails, composed an original score that drifts between the real and soul worlds.

Awakening to the Metaphysics of Soul

Pixar's "Soul" is a fascinating exploration of life, death, and the meaning of existence. As a jazz pianist named Joe, voiced by Jamie Foxx, navigates the enigmatic afterlife following a near-death experience, the audience is drawn into a vibrant and imaginative world of existential contemplation. Co-directed by Pete Docter, a seasoned Pixar expert and Kemp Powers, playwright and screenwriter of the acclaimed "One Night in Miami," "Soul" manages to handle its profound themes with a light touch, akin to a fluent jazz riff.

The Rhythm and Blues of Soul

The narrative of "Soul" hits a high note in its portrayal of jazz, an art form deeply rooted in improvisation. The film's depiction of music and musicians is both commendable and accurate. However, the movie does strike a few discordant notes. The plot sometimes seems shaggy and disorganized, an unusual trait for Pixar, which is typically meticulous with its storytelling. Furthermore, the film's transformation of Joe, a rare Black leading character in animation, into a different form for a significant part of the movie raises eyebrows. This pattern has been seen before in films like "The Princess and the Frog" and "Spies in Disguise" and mars the otherwise progressive representation of race in "Soul".

A Soulful Impact on the Audience

Despite its drawbacks, "Soul" has managed to strike a chord with its audience. Viewer impressions have been largely positive, with many praising its innovative and captivating visuals, committed voice acting, and heartfelt narrative. The film's messages about ambition, life, and the importance of appreciating the simple joys of existence have resonated with many. Furthermore, the film's focus on an authentic Black cultural experience, despite some shortcomings, has been lauded as a step forward in representation. "Soul" may not be the perfect Pixar film, but it is an important one. It's a reminder of the power of animation to tackle deep and meaningful themes while still capturing the hearts of its audience.


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