Let's face it…it wouldn't be the holiday season without at least one Disney/Pixar film being released. These family-friendly fares are a perfect way for parents and children (and maybe even grandparents) to spend time together, munching on snacks in a dark theater during the holiday break. Of course, this year will be a little different since many people are staying home and lots of movie theaters are closed. However, this doesn't mean families can't enjoy some time together with a good, old fashioned, animated movie. One of the newest offerings from these film animation giants is called Soul. With amazing animation, beautiful, melodic music, and a message to offer, Soul will put a smile on anyone's face.
Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx; Ray) is a Jazz musician moonlighting as a middle school music teacher. Even though he teaches to pay the bills, he never gave up on his dream to play full time in clubs. When one of his former students, Curly (Questlove; Brooklyn Babylon) calls Joe up and asks him to sit in on rehearsals with the legendary Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett; Black Panther), he jumps at the chance and while there he impresses Dorothea, who tells him to get a good suit and come back that night.
Unfortunately, Joe has an accident, finds his soul has separated from his body, and is headed to the "great beyond". Unwilling to accept his fate, Joe's soul runs and hides in a place called the "great before", where new souls develop their personalities, quirks, and various traits before being sent off to Earth. Mistaken for a mentor, Joe is tasked with helping soul #22 (Tina Fey; Date Night) find her personality but that is exactly what she doesn't want to do. She has no desire to go to earth but once she travels there in Joe's body (while he becomes a cat), she suddenly has no desire to leave.
The vocal talents of this cast are that of seasoned professionals and they all bring their unique styles to the characters they portray. Foxx, an Oscar winner for his role as Ray Charles in Ray, has some musicality and his innate cool cat persona makes him an excellent choice to voice Joe. Fey plays 22 perfectly, combining her comedy timing with her youthful enthusiasm and just a bit of sarcasm. Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) and Bassett portray the more mature members of this film and both bring their boldness to their characters but in very different ways. Bassett is calm and smooth while Rashad is "in your face" Mamma bear protecting her cubs.
The animation is on par with everything Disney/Pixar does. No detail is missed and vibrant colors pop with shading and textural elements. Interestingly, much like the music itself, the characters and places generally have a fluidity to them. Of course, with a movie like this, one also has to consider the music as a character of its own. While I am not particularly a fan of Jazz music, per se, the soundtrack for Soul is soothing and melodic and will introduce a whole new audience to the genre.
Disney/Pixar once again offers something new and interesting yet comfortable and somehow familiar. This time, though, the "life lesson" could become misconstrued and instead of learning the concept of trying new things and taking risks, some kids may instead take away the message of "conscious avoidance".
The movie has some cute moments, like the taste, touch, smell scene, and some heartwarming ones as well. As animated features go, it wouldn't be one of my top ten, but it is a solid movie everyone can enjoy this holiday season.
Soul premieres on Disney+ on December 25, 2020.