In a time of pandemic, very few people have been going to the movies at a cinema. The animated feature which won the Oscar, and I suspect in a runaway vote, was the film called ‘Soul’ that not accidentally came out on Christmas day. Wit e waited and watched it at home in April. As it turns out the movie is about ‘soul’ in two senses of the term— it’s about the ultimate soul music, namely jazz, one of the few genre of music about which it can be claimed began in America. But this movie is also about the non-material part of the human being, often called the soul or human spirit. Pixar is known for pushing the envelope in various ways, but imagine an animated film that is way over the heads of children because it deals with: 1) the possibility of pre-existing souls being zapped into bodies, sometimes even into the wrong body; 2) reincarnation; 3) near death experiences, and yes 4) resurrection. Whew….. that’s a potpourri of stuff, and since various of these ideas are not compatible with one another, never mind compatible with what the Bible suggests about such matters, this film becomes quite confusing at various points.
The film focuses on a man named Joe Gardner who teaches jazz in some New York City school…. but really longs to have a late-beginning career as an actual full time jazz musician. But alas, this seems not merely a dream but indeed a pipe dream…… until one day when a pianist who is supposed to accompany a diva doesn’t show up, he has his chance to actually play in a basement club that looks almost exactly like the Village Vanguard but is called the Half Note (not to be confused with the Blue Note). However, on the way to his first ever great gig, he falls into a hole and apparently dies. And that’s when things get truly weird. The man finds himself in a parallel universe of blue souls some on the up escalator to the Great Beyond, and others just sort of stuck, and often longing to return to their earthly existence. Suffice it to say, this movie is as confusing and convoluted as a Theolonius Monk rhythm or series of his chords.
The music in the film, which comes from three artists including Jon Baptiste the Nawlins born band leader of Colbert fame, is enjoyable and was nominated as best score. Honestly, I could have used a good deal more actual jazz in this film, and a little less twilight zone stuff, but c’est la vie. The creators call themselves Pix—ar, not Sound–er. The movie runs just under two hours and is enjoyable in various ways, but a guide for the perplexed about the afterlife, it is not.