This year has been one of those years that we’ll be talking about for decades to come. It’s been so overwhelming as an adult, so I can’t even imagine the stories my kids will tell when you have children of their own. This year has taken so much away from many of us, for me it stole some joy from my life. There are days I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, trying to keep our son JB and the rest of my family safe. I couldn’t imagine a Pixar film would remind me that happiness and joy is all about we put our lives in perspective.
I’ll admit when I saw the preview for SOUL I thought it was a film about jazz music. Of course, I was excited because I’m always excited about movies that showcase representation. It matters for telling stories, history, and giving our children characters they can admire and see themselves represented. I was crying within the first five minutes of the movie. And let’s be honest, Pixar can have that effect on you.
In the introduction scene, we follow Joe Gardner through his daily mundane routine of teaching music, visiting his mom, and learning that he finally earned a full-time position at his current teaching job. He always dreamed of playing jazz music in a band, and when he finally earned a spot playing with one of his idols, he, unfortunately, passed away.
I couldn’t believe that after he achieved his goal, it was all over. That was just the beginning of the film. I couldn’t imagine what could follow that would make me not focus on him losing his chance. For the rest of the movie we see he’s focused on getting back to his body and playing with the band, he earned the job with.
Joe finds himself in the beginning stage where soul earn their personalities and earn their earth pass. He tries everything to return to earth but nothing works. He decides to hide as a mentor and ends up paired with 22, an unmatched soul who’s determined to not ever leave the starting realm and go to earth. She and Joe hatches a plan to help her stay and get him the earth badge he needs to return to earth. He soon discovers that it’s no easy task since 22 hasn’t had a mentor help her find out her spark to earn the badge.
Through their hijinks and schemes they end up finding a way for Joe to get back without the earth badge but in a strange twist, Joe ends up in a therapy cat, and 22 in Joe’s body. It’s here we see how Joe’s life is experienced through the eyes of 22. This is when I felt the lesson was in the film. Life is what we make it. If we think it’s empty and like we haven’t achieved anything that’s how it will feel. Through 22’s eyes we see that Joe’s life wasn’t as bad as he thought.
We saw how he overlooked people he called his friends, how sometimes he didn’t stop to enjoy the small things, and how he overlooked all he did achieve in his life. Joe’s memories was lacking the joy in his life but 22’s fresh perspective changed everything. It was in Joe’s shoes that the unmatched soul realize she didn’t want to leave earth at all. She refused to leave Joe’s body which causes them to get caught by the counter looking for Joe’s missing soul.
When they get back to the beginning realm, they realize that 22 earned her earth pass, but Joe was upset about missing his opportunity to play at the jazz club. He’s upset with 22 and yells at her, she ends up giving him the earth pass so he can go back to his body and she becomes a wandering soul. This is where another important reminder comes in the film. Sometimes we are so focused on us that we can sometimes abandon those around us, make them feel left out and alone. Joe didn’t realize he had hurt 22, because he was so focused on getting to his gig with the band. His focus on himself made him mean and unkind to 22.
Joe gets to play his gig and he’s proud of himself, but at the end of the night, he feels unfulfilled. He feels empty and realizes that something is still missing. He worked all his life to achieve a goal, to do something he felt was his spark in life, but it didn’t bring him any joy. He finds some mementos in his jacket pocket that 22 held onto during her time in his body and that’s when he goes over the memories of his life and realizes he was wrong. He goes back to help 22 and give her back the earth pass even though it means he has to go to heaven.
When he finally talks to her and remind her that she’s special and that she’s important, and she was right he helps her take the leap to go to earth. Another heartwarming moment in the film. As a mother it made me feel like this is how it will be when I have to let my children go and have them enter the world. It ends on a high note though because Joe’s given another chance because of how he helped 22 find her spark and earn his earth pass. While we don’t know what happens after that I’m sure Joe enjoyed his life much more when he returns again.
About Disney Pixar’s SOUL
What is it that makes you…YOU? Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new feature film “Soul” introduces Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx) – a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.
Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter (“Inside Out,” “Up”), co-directed by Kemp Powers (“One Night in Miami”) and produced by Academy Award nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a. (Pixar short “Lou”), Disney and Pixar’s “Soul” will be available exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) beginning Dec. 25, 2020.