Jaimie Foxx Tina Fey Jazz Up Disney+ With Pixar’s Soul
Written By Matthew Sadowski
The new Disney Pixar movie, Soul, tells the story of Joe (Jaimie Fox), a mild-mannered middle school music teacher who feels hopelessly stuck. His school kids don’t respect him, and his mother Libba (Phylicia Rashad) doesn’t understand why he won’t give up on his dreams of becoming a jazz musician. One day, Joe lands a gig with famous jazz player Dorthea (Angela Bassett). Joe is so excited that his “big break” has come that he rushes home a little too carelessly and falls down a manhole and into a coma. He awakens outside of his body on the path to “The Great Beyond.” After trying to get back to Earth, Joe accidentally winds up in “The Great Before,” the realm where “young souls” are given their future personality traits. Joe meets 22 (Tina Fey), a rebellious soul who has never been able to find her true “Spark” for living. The two team up and plan to get Joe back to his body and find 22 her meaning.
Soul’s co-director and co-writer Pete Docter also served the same roles on Pixar’s other metaphysical romp, Inside Out, and he makes Soul a spiritual sequel of sorts. Both films take their abstract concepts (emotions/consciousness and the afterlife/preexistence, respectively) and turn them into cute little bureaucracies to explain how our interests and desires interact with our own needs. A difficult task to be sure, but if there is one thing Pixar is good at, it is imbuing heavy material with irresistible charm and making it palatable for all audiences.
However, because the concepts are so abstract, I never felt as though the movie was truly comfortable with its own setting. Many scenes in the Soul sequences amount to one character explaining to another how a certain place works: “This is where Lost Souls go… you can’t taste in The Great Before,” etc. Because of this, a good chunk of the humor relies on cutaway gags, reminding me a bit too much of Family Guy. Spending time in the Soul scenes made me just want to get back to Joe’s life in New York, where, fortunately, we spend more time than you’d think.Soul is by no means a poor movie, but I was left wanting more. There is plenty of soul in Soul, as well as heart, but I wish there was more faith in a simpler story.
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