Written by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers
Directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers
Starring Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Questlove, Daveed Diggs and Angela Bassett
A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.
Soul tells the story of Joe Gardner, a middle school teacher with dreams of becoming a Jazz musician. When he finally gets his big break, he experiences an accident that sends him to the afterlife. Unwilling to give up on his dream, he breaks away and finds himself in a new place where new souls prepare to take their place on Earth. After being mistaken for a mentor to new souls, Joe is assigned to one of the toughest young souls available, 22. While Joe is desperate to return to Earth and his life, 22 has no interest in Earth or becoming alive at all.
On its surface, Soul has a pretty straightforward premise and story. What sets it apart is that it also has fully realized characters and a heart that transcends normal movie tropes. Joe is an everyman in every sense and his struggles are universal for not just creative people, but anyone who wants to fulfill a dream even in the face of overwhelming obstacles. One of the things that the movie does well is that it teaches a broader lesson about life’s meaning to the character without making the dream the enemy. In essence, it allows for the desire of the dream to exist and encourages it but wants the character to see that there is more that can be had along with it.
The sentiment of seeing the whole of life is brought through with the character of 22. 22 has seen what life is and both its ups and downs, but her lack of experience in it produces a narrow view that is only expanded when an accident allows her to literally walk a mile in Joe’s shoes. While there is visual flair throughout and a gorgeous look to the film, the story is what is so engaging as it presents big ideas in a fun, sweet and organic way.
While there are some moments that are cringe-worthy as a black man watching, in essence, a white woman attempt to live our experience, the film tries to tell a story that is about the universal humanity of its characters and their struggles. Pete Docter and Kemp Powers keep a mellow, light tone to the story that allow for the characters to take center stage and live and breathe. The film has a great pace that never feels rushed. There is almost a melodic, musical quality to the plot that mirrors its Jazz backdrop.
A delightful, timely and all too human story that is fun, funny and emotional.