Soul (2020)

In Limited Re-Release on January 12th, preceded by the Sparkshort “Burrow.” Check Local Listings.

Also Streaming on Disney Plus, and Available in Stores.

While watching “Soul,” two things came to mind. It’s amazing how much the movie reminded me of Chuck Jones’ “The High Note,” and Norton Juster’s “The Dot and the Line.” Both films perfectly articulate the power of music, and sound and the joy and pain that can come with it. Down to its basest, “Soul” is very much a movie about the power of music and the passion that can arise from it that transcends life and death. It’s probably one of the most unusual animated films from “Soul” in that animation style is so different from anything we’ve seen before or will see after.

Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But after an unfortunate accident, he travels to another realm where he learns about the process of the soul. Hoping to go back to his life, he agrees to help someone find their passion, and he soon discovers what it means to have soul.

There’s so much to love about “Soul” but it gets down to the nitty gritty, feeling so much like a pop sculpture, one that pays homage to the music. All the while it also gives enough catalyst for our hero Joe Gardener to try to figure out a way to avoid The Great Beyond for a while. “Soul” is tricky in that it could have easily become a cheesy faith based film, but it’s neutral enough to where it can be plugged in to almost any ideology that subscribes to the idea of an after life. What’s even better is that even secular audiences will find a lot to love with “Soul.” Kemp Powers and Pete Docter are able to reach deep down to the core of how music can drive us, and push us, and keep us going for one more day.

Joe Gardener is a humble man who lives a pretty innocuous life, but he finds a chance to pursue an opportunity. This isn’t just an opportunity for massive success, but also personal fulfillment, which is such an engaging element to his character. When he dies and ends up in the after life, his journey is much more personal than it is grandiose. There’s no big villain, or evil mastermind. It’s instead a journey about reclaiming his life, and ultimately helping someone else, in this case 22, find a reason to pursue their own lives. Through and through “Sol” is so beautiful and subtle with so many unique ideas that help bring the concept of the afterlife to the big screen.

Simultaneously the animators help younger viewers experience the concepts of life and death as simply another process in reality, rather than something horrifying. Jamie Foxx is just marvelous in his role, leading folks like Tina Fey, and Rachel House and Alice Braga, respectively. “Soul” is probably one of the more overlooked Pixar gems released, and it deserves so much more celebration and appreciation.