These belated thoughts on the Pixar film "Soul" streaming on Disney+ commence with sharing the joy as to this film exceeding every expectation. The starting point is the film looking visually stunning viewed on a Sony 4K television; this is compared to the meh video quality of (reviewed) "Wonder Woman 1984" on HBO Max.
A related note is that "Soul" is the COVID-19 era equivalent of appointment TV from the era before widespread VCR ownership. A personal coping mechanism as to a virtual lockdown is to anticipate a special movie and watch it while eating a favored theater-style snack. Not having to smuggle such treats in a cineplex is a bonus.
The bigger picture (no pun intended) is that the tale of frustrated middle-aged jazz pianist Joe (Jamie Foxx) facing enormous obstacles as to fulfilling his life's ambition truly appeals to kids of all ages. If anything, the existential issues are a little over the heads of toddlers and tweens.
The too-numerous to individually mention accolades for "Soul" include 45 awards.
The following "Soul" trailer provides a good sense of the concept of the film while highlighting the superb animation that shames the other exceptional Pixar titles.
The "fun-for-all-ages" concept commences with the opening scenes of middle-school band teacher Joe, who is an exception to the rule that those who can't do teach, trying to get his untalented, and/or/lazy, and/or unmotivated students to develop a "you're in the band" proficiency. The insult that is added to this injury is that Joe has never made it as a working musician.
The game-changer comes in the form of a former student getting Joe an audition as the fill-in pianist for the renowned Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) Quartet. Although this is music to the ears of Joe, his running to tell Mama is a letdown in that she feels that never having made it as a musician supports sticking with the security of the stability of the teaching gig.
Joy on being selected to join the Fantastic Four leads to a distracted Joe emulating '20s silent classics in the form of obliviously narrowly avoiding fatal accidents until dropping in on the workplace of Ed Norton of "The Honeymooners." This leads to an out-of-body experience on a moving stairway to Heaven.
Believing that Heaven can wait, Joe attempts a great escape. This results in his ending up in the Great Before.
This limbo has elements of the MUST-SEE 1991 Meryl Streep comedy "Defending Your Life" in which the recently departed face a hearing that determines that whether the place from which they can check out any time but can never leave will be Heaven or Hell, Pixar borrows from its literal emotion-laden tween angst film "Inside Out" by having Before be the place that adorable blob-like souls are prepared for entering the bodies of newborns.
The process begins with a blob seemingly randomly assigned to a hive that establishes a general personality. Folks who recall the pre-VCR era will find particular humor in an observation that an undue number of these future essences end up in the self-absorbed community. The final stage before sending a soul to inhabit an infant is a deceased person serving as a mentor to a soul to provide the spark that drives that future meat suit.
Fugitive Joe is assigned problem-child 22 (Tina Fey), who has defeated Mother Teresa and many other historic figures in her quest to avoid going to earth. Not-quite hilarity ensues in a manner that leads to emulating the MUST-SEE Carl Reiner 1984 comedy "All of Me" in which the soul of the character whom Lily Tomlin plays possesses the body of the character whom Steve Martin portrays.
In typical Disney fashion, both Joe and 22 receive enlightenment and figuratively if not literally live happily ever after. The "Kobayashi Maru" style cheating to thwart an anal bureaucrat greatly adds to the joy of the conclusion. The final film homage is a stinger that directly pays homage to the end-of-credits clips in "The Muppet Movie" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
The appeal of "Soul" extends beyond candy-coating deep thoughts in an entertaining story. This film, like "Inside Out" and the Pixar film "Coco," aptly shows that its audience is maturing to a point that it can handle (and savor) more vegetable with its fluffy confections.