This somewhat unusual Pixar movie is not like “Toy Story” or “Cars,” but it will appeal to young watchers and draw in their parents as well.
“Soul” opens as the story of Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) the frustrated teacher of a middle-school band class whose students, all but one, don’t care about music. Joe is a jazz piano player who wants music to be his life.
Suddenly an opportunity opens, and Joe proves his chops by jamming with famous saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) and her jazz group. He gets the new job of his dreams, but events intervene.
In his enthusiasm, Joe falls into a sewer that lacks a manhole cover and wakes up as a small translucent being, presumably dying and on a moving pathway to eternity.
“My life’s just starting!” he yells. “I’m not dying! I’ve got to get back!”
Joe manages to escape the walkway and finds himself among a group of similar-looking creatures who are not headed for the Great Beyond but instead are being prepared for the Great Before — except one, 22 (Tina Fey,) who has failed many tryouts and is pretty negative about the idea of life on earth.
Suddenly Joe and 22 awaken in Joe’s hospital room, where 22 lives in Joe’s body and Joe is a big fat kitty cat, again frustrated. They leave the hospital and pursue a hilarious course through the city, each awkward but, over time, learning from each other.
This is an unusual story, and it does result in kindness rewarded and lessons learned. But it would be nothing without its real-feeling animated musical performances and its score, organized by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and with Jon Batiste’s jazz arrangements and compositions. Here are samples from the soundtrack.
Worth a look.
Other New Movies
Two other films opened this weekend. They may attract more viewers, but not me.
I planned initially to watch the big seller, Wonder Woman 1984. But then came the doubts — a long, long 2.5 hours, more magical powers employed in difficult situations, another two-dimensional villain, another Kristin Wiig in another silly role and more. I rather enjoyed the 2017 Warner/DC Wonder Woman, but the sequel seemed less appealing.
Maybe it’s more difficult to care about superhero stories when the number of everyday crimes is rising and everyday law enforcement is stepping back. Maybe that’s why a smaller movie about personal character sounded better.
The other film, News of the World, is from a 2016 novel that I thought was okay but not great.
In it, a quiet hero played by Tom Hanks commits to returning to her relatives a girl who had been held for several years by members of a Kiowa tribe who had kidnapped her after killing her parents.
The story is of the road trip between the Tom Hanks character and a girl who has roots in two very different cultures.
The book is okay, but as one who spent some time in Texas, I found it less interesting than the true story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who at the age of 10 was kidnapped by a Comanche raid that killed most of her family. Many years later, after she had married a Comanche chief and had three children, she was miserable to be “rescued” and returned to the life of her childhood. One of her sons, Quanah, survived as a man influential in both his parents’ cultures.
Now that’s a story.