After spending most of his life waiting for his big break, struggling jazz artist Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is finally given the opportunity he’s been dreaming of when offered a chance to perform with a real jazz band. Unfortunately, before he even has a chance to celebrate his achievement, Joe suffers a near-fatal accident, casting his soul into the Great Beyond. However, Joe refuses to accept his demise as he struggles to escape the realm between life and death. To do so, he’s going to need the help of an unborn soul known only as Soul 22 (Tina Fey) to find a way back to Earth in time for his big night. The movie also stars Rachel House, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad and Angela Bassett.
“Soul” is the latest release from renewed animation studio Pixar, and it’s certainly one of their more bizarre films—though in a good way. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film I could say looked gorgeous, and “Soul” is an absolute beauty to look at. The movie really shines in the art and creativity department whenever we’re in the afterlife—taking us to strange and unique places like The Great Beyond, The Great Before, and The Zone.
Another unique aspect of the film is there really is no villain. Sure, there’s one character in “Soul” who follows Joe to try and bring him back to the Great Beyond, but the character doesn’t come off as wicked, just someone intent on doing their duty. The focus of the plot is about the relationship between Joe Gardner and Soul 22 and the hijinks they fall into as they try to get Joe back to his life. Also, keep in mind this is a children’s movie and one of the plot points of the film is about a dead man trying to get back his life, while trying to come to terms with how he’s lived it, among other things. So, I commend the filmmakers in how they were able to take such heavy concepts and present them in a creative and kid-friendly manner.
The soundtrack also deserves praise as well. Given our character is a jazz musician, the overall music score goes for a jazz style and it’s positively beautiful. Though that is thanks in part to the composing work of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the same composers behind the original scores for “The Social Network,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Gone Girl.”
I must play devil’s advocate, however. There’s one flaw with the film that needs addressing. It feels a bit… rushed. The movie needed more breathing room for the various places our characters visit. I would have liked more scenes of Joe in the afterlife, perhaps meeting individuals from history who had passed. There’s more I could go into, but that would risk spoilers, so let’s just leave it at that the film has a few missed opportunities I wish it would have undertaken. However, seeing as the film was released in December 2020, I could attribute the issues to the pandemic. After all, creating an animated film is challenging, and I imagine trying to finish one during a pandemic only makes it more arduous.
“Soul” is rated PG for thematic elements and some language. As of the time of this review, the film is only viewable via Disney’s exclusive streaming service Disney+. Despite my criticisms, if you’re a fan of animation and music, I would still give “Soul” a recommendation. While the movie is no “Coco” or “Up,” it has enough creativity and wonder behind it to make it a fascinating viewing for adults, and an enjoyable time for children. Which is why the final score for “Soul” is an 8 out of 10.