Soul Move Review

Disney Pixar released Soul on Christmas and I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. I read so many negative comments based on the preview from people wondering why the main black characters could not stay in their human form the entire time. In Princess and the Frog, Tiana did spend almost the entire movie as a darn frog, and with this being the second major project with a black main character some were disappointed by the fact that Joe Gardner appeared to turn into a soul. Skepticism aside, I decided to watch and so glad I did. 

I have been pleasantly surprised by two movies over the weekend, Slyvie’s Love and now Soul. Yes, Joe Gardner played by Jamie Foxx did turn into a soul. However, unlike The Princess and the Frog, it was not for the majority of the film and the impact of his character in human form really overshadowed the time he spent as a soul. Moving beyond that, there were so many elements that were enjoyable about this feature. The one thing that may have disappointed some is the musicality. If you came looking for a deep dive into jazz, you will be let down.

The pace of this was just right. The hour and 47-minute long movie passed the time and I barely noticed. The flow from conflict to resolution to conflict was smooth and fitting. The acting was as expected from the star-studded cast. Joining Jamie Foxx was Tina Faye, Daveed Diggs, Questlove, Phylicia Rashard, Rachel House, Donnell Rawlings, Graham Norton, and Angella Bassett. They did not disappoint. Aside from enjoying some of my favorite actors, the film had a diverse group of people working on the project overall. 

Joe Gardner is a single, middle-aged band teacher that has spent most of his life chasing his dream to become a star jazz musician and make a living out of it. On the day he seems to get his big break, he dies and becomes a soul on his way to the great beyond. Panicking at the thought of missing out on his big break, he passes up his chance to go to the great beyond and finds himself on a journey to get back to his body. 

The lesson learned is cliche but so true and we constantly take it for granted- everyone moment of this life with worth living. 

SPOILERS AHEAD

Being that it is the holidays, this almost had a Scrooge feel to it. Upon his almost death and Joe running away from the great beyond, which if he had entered he would have actually died, he finds himself in another realm of souls before they are sent to earth. There he pretends to be a mentor and meets 22. The soul he is supposed to help find a purpose. In one scene Joe is shown his past life. In another scene when he maneuvers a way to get back in his body that doesn’t quite work out as he had planned, he gets to see his present life, and towards the end when he has seemingly accomplished his sole goal in the film, to play with Dorothea’s band, he gets a taste of what his future may be like. All this culminating in him realizing the true meaning of life and it was not what he thought. 

Unlike Scrooge, Joe was not wealthy, his focus was solely on getting status and he too was missing out on life. Soul ain’t nothing but A Christmas Carol. No wonder I enjoyed it so much. A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite holiday movies and just like it Soul is my new classic. 

Joe Gardner played by Jamie Foxx had flaws. He was selfish as heck. In the celestial plane, there was an area where people’s essence/soul went when they were in the zone, the place between the spiritual and physical. Also in this plane were people who are titled lost souls because they had become so obsessed or lost in the repetition of negativity and negative self-thought that they could not get past that to enjoy life. Joe was well on his way to being a lost soul in my opinion. He was going through life without living, so focused on being a successful musician that he did not enjoy the journey. That could not be more evident when he discounted what 22 was experiencing by saying to her, “Those really aren’t purposes, 22, that’s just regular old living.” He completely missed the fact that he positively affected his students particularly Curley and Connie or the positive influence he could have on others. 

He was also so focused that it made him entirely self-absorbed. He did not really care about what 22 was going through. Joe did not care enough about others to even get to know them as the visit to the barbershop showed. When Connie came to him to talk about quitting music, he did not care enough to stop and help her out. All he cared about was his big chance. He was not a mean person but he was clueless. In the end, he was able to come to terms with all that. After getting everything that he wanted and realizing that he had missed out on what was important, he redeemed himself by sharing that with 22 and allowing that soul to pass to earth. 

Tina Faye played 22 and she was the cutest. I feel like Soul subliminally took a Karen dig when 22 said she chose the voice of a middle-aged white women because it annoyed people. That is my take, I am sure some folk won’t feel the same. Just as I compared Joe wanted to destroy his couch in protest of 22, in his body, not listening to him but then realizing he would be destroying his own property was a slight at the rioting that has been happening. At any rate, this is one of those souls that comes into a person and we say they are an old soul or wise beyond their years. She had just the right amount of petulance, wonder, and curiosity of a child but was wise beyond her unassigned years. Even still, she had to overcome what was holding her back and that was accepting that she was good enough to live. Unfortunately, when she was finally ready to do that her negative thoughts only got reinforced by Joe because he was too self-obsessed to see what they both needed to learn. Once he finally learned it, he had to show it to 22 as well. Sometimes we just have to accept that we are good enough for this life. 

Graham Norton as Moonwind was so fitting. I loved Moonwind. I loved how they tied the two worlds together in the zone. More importantly, how they showed that your inner peace or lack thereof can jeopardize your health in the physical world. Moonwind, perceived as a little wacky, acted as a spiritual guide. In this case, he used meditation but I imagine other spiritual guides can have a similar effect in helping us see the bigger picture is about appreciating life. Moonwind was a delight. 

Libba Gardner played by Phylicia Rashard was like most of our moms. She wanted her son to succeed and eventually learned to support him. Joe failed in communicating with her because he thought himself a failure in her eyes. This in turn was reflected back to him. Some of what she said to him, in the beginning, was pretty harsh and condescending, but he did allow her. Once he stood up for himself, she relented and supported him fully. Sometimes that fear of seeing your child unhappy makes parents react in the wrong way. 

The Jerrys (collectively known as the counselors) and Terry. I really liked Terry, but can someone tell me why Terry was Terry and the others were Jerry. The counselors reminded me of the people in the actual good place in the TV series The Good Place. They were cheery and bright and full of optimism and good vibes. Terry on the other hand was a little obsessive and annoying. The part when they were going to present Terry with a self-appointed award was too cute. Then all heck broke out with 22 turning into a lost soul causing the award to be taken back. 

Lastly, I really loved the ode to the black barbershop. Dez voiced by Donnell Rawlings gave insight into what it meant to be a barber even though it was not his first choice. He was so good at it that Joe thought it was his calling. On the contrary, Dez had to change course but was still able to find happiness along the way. They talked about how he changes lives with his haircuts and people sit in his chair and they exchange stories. This was another time that Joe realized he was missing out because he had not taken advantage of doing that. 

The one thing that bugged me just a tad was the fact that Joe seemed not to pay one darn fair. Did he pay the cab driver? How? All he had on was a hospital gown. Then in the train station, he did not appear to pay one penny. It is a very small thing but I noticed it. I am sure there are other things that other people noticed. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. 

Solid A. 

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