“Soul” takes an original journey to the afterlife, jazz music and the meaning of Spark


Pixar films have a way of appealing to a range of emotions. Who can ever forget the memorable 2009 Up start sequence showing the sunrise and the whole of a romantic relationship? Or 2015 Upside down, where a young teenage girl has to deal with her basic emotions during a difficult movement. The beauty of Pixar films is that they show these universal questions that humans have, but in a way that adults and children can meet in the middle. Whether it’s a loss, a sense of camaraderie and change. Soul causes two patterns that we all face down; legacy and purpose. We all have something that motivates us and gives us a reason to look forward to enjoying the day. You can feel so lost without it. The Goal Tool is great to have, and it can be something that shapes your legacy. Is there a time when life gets bogged down too much for the purpose that you can’t stop and smell the roses?

Joe Gardner (Jamie foxx) is a college music teacher and pianist with an undying love for jazz music. Certainly his goal in life is to play in a jazz band. This is what enlightens it and gives it meaning. One day, through his former student, Curley (Questlove), Joe gets the chance to play in Dorothea Williams’ famous band (Angela Bassett). However, there is a problem: he has an accident and his soul is separated from his body. From there he goes to The Great Beyond and The Great Before – a place where Soul Advisors are all called Jerry (Alice braga, Richard Ayoade) help new souls to assign their personalities. He meets a soul named 22 (Tina Fey) who wants absolutely nothing to do with living experience. With an odd couple setup, they both have to find out what the meaning of life is in a way that will cause laughter and emotional epiphanies.

Co-directors Powers of Kemp and Pete Doctor do an exemplary job not only immersing yourself in the fantastical aspect of the afterlife, but also in the bustling neighborhoods of New York City. You venture everywhere, from the metro to the barber shop to a dimly lit jazz club. To make it Pixar’s first African-American-directed film (long overdue), the culture, jazz music heritage and generational love of black families is well represented. Animation depicts otherworldly aspects of Soul in an abstract, dreamlike way but also leveled by the impressive realistic aspects of the real world. The tasks of the soundtrack are shared by the team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with styles of Jon Batiste. All parts work together to blend electronic and sometimes beautifully tranquil piano with the mesmerizing and complex scales of jazz music.

The best thing about Soul is its story, where it is much more layered than at first glance. Joe’s musical dream comes up against the pressures of the real world of society. Mainly, his mother Libba (Phylicia rashad) wants the best for him, but wants Joe to settle into the stability of his dreams. This film speaks to the dreamer in all of us. Sometimes the vision can be so real to you that it seems wacky to others. You become hyper focused to make it happen. Once Joe and 22 get together, they help each other discover that the minutiae of life – the little moments are just as important. There are some lovely flashbacks that occur throughout the film where you see the origin of Joe’s love for jazz music – introduced by his father, in particular. While you might want more time to investigate Joe’s background further, the movie provides just enough conversation and visuals to get the gist of it.

A deeper message lives inside Soul which lends itself to the one-year maelstrom we have had. Many of us have seen our lives turned upside down and shaken up and shaken up. The conventional 9 to 5 pattern of going to the office and coming home has changed. SoulThe inclusion of Disney + works to its advantage, as the whole family can have time to get something out of this movie. Children will have questions about the afterlife and talk about the things they love the most. Parents can take an inner journey to find out what their spark is and pay it off. Together we can all remember that everything added together makes for a full and fulfilled life.

Photo credit: Disney / Pixar

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Henry R. Wright

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