Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx in the new movie Soul, is a jazz lover and gifted piano player who teaches middle school band. He’s seeking success and the approval of his mother (Phylicia Rashad). When he gets a gig playing with his idol, saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), Joe thinks he’s about to fulfill his purpose in life.
Then Joe falls down a manhole. Eventually, he finds himself in the Great Before, where new souls are prepared for life. It’s also where Joe meets Soul Number 22 (Tina Fey). He’s assigned to help her find her spark—the passion that motivates her. But 22 isn’t excited about anything until she begins to experience life for herself.
Seeing life through 22’s eyes awakens something in Joe. He realizes that while music is one of his sparks, he also finds satisfaction in helping others. By guiding 22, Joe gains an appreciation for the little things that make life worth living. For example, 22 gets her spark from ordinary activities, like watching the sky.
The characters in Soul are very relatable. Everyone has a spark. The movie suggests that part of the beauty of life is discovering that spark and helping others find theirs.
Joe’s piano pieces, played by musician Jon Batiste, are a highlight of the film. The music is impressive and full of feeling.
It’s easy to believe these works take Joe on a musical journey to another world. By hearing them, we are transported too.
I give Soul a rating of 9 out of 10. The movie is thought-provoking and inspiring. As the characters learn from one another, the viewer is invited to examine his or her own life.
You’ll want to watch this film again and again with those who know you best, so you can discuss your spark and why it makes you you.