January 8, 2021 – Pixar has another strong animated Academy Award contender this year with “Soul,” featuring the voice talent of Jamie Foxx and the musical talent of Jon Batiste. If those animated fingers on the piano look like Batiste's long fingers, it is no coincidence.
Soul is the story of Joe Gardner (voiced by Foxx) jazz pianist who is a grade school music teacher with dreams of being a top stage performer. He feels like his whole life has been a waste of talent.
On the very day he gets his big break, nailing an audition with a top jazz band, he falls into a manhole and dies, or does he? He embarks on an extremely complicated afterlife journey which involves him trying to avoid the rules and return his soul to his body.
On this journey in another plane of existence, he runs into a kind of lost soul called number 22 (voiced by Tina Fey) who is supposed to be born, but can't make up her mind if that is what she really wants.
Joe and 22 conspire to go to earth to revive Joe's body, which is in a hospital. Joe wants to get to his stage performance with the aid of a kind of soul-surfing hippie named Moonwind. But Joe jumps the gun and ends up in the body of a cat, while 22 ends up in Joe's body.
A hilarious situation ensues in which a cat tries to teach an inexperienced soul how to be a functioning adult in a major city. This crazy adventure teaches both Joe and 22 a lot about the nature of life in this world. Instead of being afraid of life, and thinking she was unworthy to even attempt it, 22 learns that life, for all its problems, is worth living.
Since Joe has broken the rules of afterlife, he is pursued by Terry, an afterlife accountant who discovers that Joe is trying to avoid his fate. Terry goes to earth in pursuit of Joe and 22. Along the way, Joe has to reconcile his musical ambitions with his mother, who is more interested in Joe having a steady income.
If this sounds like an overplotted movie, it is. A bit like ‘Inception’ (2010) there are way too many made-up ‘rules’ to follow, not that the movie follows its own rules anyway. All these rules make the plot overly cluttered.
The animation in the movie is innovative and colorful, alternating between 3D-type full color animation on earth, and more of a 2D limited color look in other planes of existence. The movie is loaded with narrative and visual imagination. As is quite common in Pixar films, it may be just a cartoon, but it has plenty of soul. This film rates a B+.
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