by Merecedes J. Williams, For New Pittsburgh Courier
Death is a raw, touchy subject, especially now more than ever.
There are zero degrees of separation when identifying someone you know or love who has been affected by the coronavirus.
Death is also typically a conversation had amongst adults, so when Kemp Powers, Mike Jones and Pete Docter decided to create an animation film about life’s finale, I was more than skeptical.
But after 100 minutes of tear-jerking, feet-tapping, life-thinking reactions, I can proclaim that “Soul” is one of the best things this crazy year has produced.
Ironically, with the many people we have lost during this global pandemic, the movie is a sweet reminder about the true meaning of life, love and finding your purpose.
Pixar finally presents its first feature film with an African American leading role. Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx lends his voice talents for Joe Gardner, a jazz enthusiast and music teacher whose soul gets separated from his body right before the biggest gig of his life.
“Soul,” like jazz music, is beautiful, smooth and a delightful keepsake of both time and life.
“You already have a pretty fantastic life and sometimes that’s hard to see,” said “Soul” writer and director Pete Docter in a roundtable discussion hosted by the African American Film Critics Association.
Docter told me that when he’s on his death bed, he’s not going to be thinking about finishing the film on time or making sure it’s under budget, but Docter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, wants to reflect upon “family friends, and…everyday moments that I could easily take for granted.”
“I hope that people will have a gratitude for what they have.”
Out of all the undertones that resonated in “Soul,” the idea of purpose lingered at the top of the list. As Joe Gardner seeks to live for his love of jazz, we, too, crave to fulfill our destiny and walk in our purpose even though at times we seem to live aimlessly. If anything, life’s true purpose is the fuel to taking full advantage of your time here on Earth.
That is some deep stuff for a kids movie.
“Soul” made writer and co-director Kemp Powers reassess his own relationship with his children. “I hope it makes us not just appreciate our families but just talk to them a little bit more and see a little bit more of their humanity when we look at one another.”
“Soul” is “Ghost,” “The Good Place” and “Inside Out” all wrapped up in one near-perfect Christmas package. Jamie Foxx delivers, per usual. All the spunky, satisfaction and soul he already possesses seeps through the pores of this character.
In contrast to “The Princess and the Frog,” we get a real-time glimpse of Black folks on a Pixar screen with encouraging depictions of barbershop talk and Black men leading the classroom.
Pixar has a long way to go in diversifying its catalog, but “Soul” is another fantastic attempt.
“Soul” is now available on Disney+ (Disney Plus).