Movie Review: Soul (2020)

Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher, feels stuck in life and unfulfilled at his job. He dreams of a career in jazz, to which his seamstress mother, Libba, objects. By chance, his former student Curly informs him of an opening in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams. Joe impresses Dorothea with his piano playing and is offered the job on the spot. As Joe happily heads off to prepare for his first performance later that night, he falls down a manhole.

Joe finds himself as a soul heading into the “Great Beyond” (the film’s iteration of the afterlife). Unwilling to die before his big break, he tries to escape but ends up in the “Great Before” where soul counselors, all named Jerry, set up young souls for life on Earth. Joe poses as an instructor who is set to train the souls and is assigned 22, a cynical soul who has remained in the Great Before for millennia and sees no point in living on Earth. 22 reveals that she has a badge that fills up with traits. She needs to find her “spark” to complete it and says she will give it to Joe so that he can return home.

Joe tries to get 22 to find something to be passionate about but is unsuccessful. With no other options, she takes him out to “the zone”, an area that people enter when their passion sets them into a euphoric trance. It also houses the lost souls who become obsessed. They meet Moonwind, a sign twirler who enters the zone to rescue lost souls. He agrees to help Joe return to his body and they learn that he has fallen into a coma when he fell down the manhole. Joe excitedly hops back to Earth but accidentally brings 22 with him, resulting in 22 entering his body and Joe ending up in the body of a therapy cat. Meanwhile, Terry, an accountant in the Great Before, learns that Joe is missing and convinces the Jerrys to let her go look for him to bring him back.

22 and Joe escape the hospital. Initially frightened, 22 slowly learns how to use Joe’s human body, and finds great enjoyment in the little things in life. They head to Joe’s apartment where Connie, one of Joe’s students arrives to tell him that she is quitting the band. Before leaving, Connie plays a passionate trombone solo, stunning 22, who convinces her of the talent she has and that music is for her. Happy, Connie thanks “Joe”, and leaves, having changed her mind. They next go to get a haircut where 22 holds a deep, poignant conversation with Dez, the barber. After 22 rips Joe’s pants while bending down, they go to see Libba to have it fixed and “Joe” finally has a serious talk with her about his passion. Libba finally accepts Joe’s passion of music and offers him his late father’s old suit.

Before Moonwind can swap the bodies back, 22 has an epiphany and decides she is content with life, refussing to give Joe his body back. She runs and Joe gives chase, but Terry catches up and brings both back to the Great Before, where 22 sees that her badge has been filled out. However, Joe tells her that she was using his experiences and that it does not matter. Angry, she tosses the badge at him and disappears to the zone. Joe learns from a Jerry that instead of a life’s purpose, a spark simply means that a soul is ready to live. He heads back to Earth and has a successful first performance with the Dorothea quartet, but does not feel right about what happened.

Changed by 22’s experience, Joe plays the piano, inspired by objects 22 collected while in his body, and enters the zone, where 22 is now a lost soul. He tries to return her badge, but 22 remains hopeless and broken about her purpose. Using a small maple seed that 22 had collected before, Joe convinces 22 that she is ready to live, and she returns to normal. With her badge back, they both jump back to Earth, Joe keeping 22 company for as long as he can, and she finally enters Earth. As he prepares to head into the Great Beyond, Joe is stopped by a Jerry who tells him that he has inspired them and will give him another chance at life. Joe thanks them and returns to his body back in Earth, now with the intent to live his life to the fullest.

So after we celebrated our Christmas (Happy Holidays to everyone), we sat and watched Soul which was just released on Disney+. From what I saw on various Disney Facebook groups, it had mostly good reviews but there were a few who just couldn’t get into it. I personally did enjoy it, as did my mom and Matthew, however it was a lot slower paced with not much action. I can see why people weren’t thrilled. It is adorable and I recommend.

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