SOUL Is Misleading and Frightening for Children
By Movieguide® Staff
Editor’s note: This is a portion of our review of SOUL. For the full review, click here.
SOUL, Pixar and Disney’s new animated comedy, is about a black music teacher who’s never made it big and finally has the chance to play with a famous jazz singer, but he unexpectedly dies and has to fix things in “the Great Before” to return to Earth and fulfill his purpose. SOUL has a very confusing plotline that’s filled with New Age and Hindu content and sadly isn’t as well done as Pixar’s movie INSIDE OUT.
The movie opens with a black music teacher, Joe, trying to teach his high school class about jazz. (It should be noted that this reviewer loves jazz, and the movie’s jazz references are very good.) Joe has never been able to land a gig, and his mother has never wanted him to be a jazz musician, because his father was a poor jazz musician, and so she had to support the family.
On the day Joe’s given the news that he’s been accepted as a full time teacher, with all the accompanying perks and benefits, he gets a call form Curly, one of his former students, that he has a big break to audition on the piano for the famous jazz musician, Dorothea Williams. When he auditions, his wonderful jazz riff impresses Dorothea, so she hires him for the night.
Rushing back to his apartment, Joe falls through a manhole and dies. Suddenly, he’s on an escalator to Heaven and starts trying to get away from Heaven and return to his earthly existence while pushing other people out of the way.
Instead of returning to Earth, Joe he falls into the “Great Before,” which is where baby souls are given their personality. When they get all of their personality traits, they get born on Earth. Joe tries to jump through the portal to Earth but keeps getting sent back.
At this point, an angel named Jerry mistakes Joe for a mentor, giving him the identity of a psychiatrist and assigning him the most difficult baby soul, 22, in the Great Before who doesn’t want to go to Earth and has frustrated every mentor for hundreds of years. Baby soul 22 leads Joe through another portal, where baby souls have a gigantic city of various personality traits from which to choose. Joe can’t get 22 interested any of the personality traits, however. They go through another portal into the Zone, where there’s some depressed souls that have never been born. The depressed souls walk around like big dark blobs.
Joe and the baby soul come upon an astral sailing ship commanded by Moonwind, a man who’s actually alive on a street corner in New York City swinging an advertising sign. This guru makes it possible for Joe and the baby soul, Number 22, to return to Earth, but 22 mistakenly inhabits Joe’s body in the hospital, and Joe inhabits a fat cat’s body on Joe’s hospital bed. Now, the real Joe fat cat needs to get 22 in Joe’s body prepared for the big debut with Dorothea Williams.
Meanwhile, in the Great Beyond, the record keeping angel, Terry, realizes he’s missing one deceased soul. So, he comes to Earth to find Joe and get him back to the Great Beyond. Through a lot of complications, another death, another coming back to his body, and all sorts of other problems, Joe tries to get to his jazz performance. He also tries to find 22’s last personality trait and to find both of their purposes in life.
Some moments in SOUL are very imaginative and raise important questions about the afterlife, but they’re marred irreparably by the movie’s preponderance of Hindu and New Age references and by the very ugly events that occur in the Zone and even on Earth. SOUL is more of an arthouse movie and, as such, has gotten some good reviews. However, children will be frightened as well as misled by some of the movie’s themes. Audiences may also not find it funny and may find it hard to understand, because the plot is too disjointed.