Soul: Film Review

Soul

I hold Pixar films in really high regard so I have the greatest of expectations for each new offering and while Soul is good, it doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the company’s best work.

Soul follows middle school music teacher Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), who has long dreamed of having a career as a jazz musician. One day, he is hired to become the pianist in a band with Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), but hours before the break he has been longing for, Joe has an accident and his soul is separated from his body. He wakes up on a conveyor belt heading to The Great Beyond, but he manages to escape and ends up in The Great Before, where souls develop their personalities and traits before being sent to Earth. He must work with souls in training, such as 22 (Tina Fey), in order to get back to his body.

I have to applaud Pete Docter and his team for taking on big themes such as life and death and what comes before and after them and presenting them visually in a way children will want to watch and creating an entertaining journey that they will enjoy and understand, even if the big concepts go over their heads. I really respected the message about appreciating life, a person’s purpose, and what gives them their spark as well as the ambition the team had for this movie – but it didn’t fully work for me. I can’t place why but at the end, I felt deflated because I was expecting more; for it to hit me in the feels or give me some sort of epiphany, but that didn’t happen. My expectations for Pixar films are just so damn high!

The voice cast is incredible. Foxx was the perfect choice for Joe and he brings so much energy and enthusiasm to the part. Fey was also excellent as 22, who is reluctant to find her spark and go to Earth, and they make a great comedy pairing. I also enjoyed Phylicia Rashad as Joe’s no-nonsense mother Libba, Bassett as the difficult to impress Dorothea, and Rachel House as Terry, a soul counter in The Great Beyond. I was surprised but thrilled to hear the voices of Graham Norton and Richard Ayoade in this, with Norton being a particular delight.

Although this isn’t one of the best Pixar films and the message might be lost on young viewers, they can still enjoy the colourful visuals, the body-swap comedy element, and all the cat jokes. There’s plenty of humour in here to amuse both kids and adults, but grown-ups may appreciate what it’s saying too.

Available on Disney+ for no extra fee on Christmas Day

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey – Netflix Film Review

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Netflix isn’t exactly known for producing many high-quality Christmas films – they usually fall into the “so bad it’s good” category – but hopefully the tide is set to turn because Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a wonderful festive film for all the family.

The story begins with young Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell), the most renowned and prosperous inventor of all, preparing to launch a matador toy that comes alive – Don Juan Diego (voiced by Ricky Martin). However, his young apprentice Gustafson (Miles Barrow), overcome by jealousy and greed, steals the toy and Jangle’s book of inventions. We then cut to many years later, when Gustafson (now Keegan-Michael Key) has become the most famed inventor and Jeronicus (now Forest Whitaker) has become a grumpy and lonely man who works as a pawnbroker out of his decaying shop. But his fortunes are about to change – his estranged granddaughter Journey (Madalen Mills), who shares his gift for inventing, arrives for an unannounced visit.

Jingle Jangle has a super flimsy plot so you should look elsewhere if you’re wanting depth, nuance, and a more complex story. However, you can forgive the film for all this because it’s so entertaining to watch. Children will love the musical numbers and the choreography, Mills as the fearless Journey, and most of all, the Buddy 3000, an adorable robot that can talk and fly (and looks a lot like WALL-E).

Writer/director David E. Talbert has created an ambitious Christmas movie and a visual spectacle that features stunning production design, Victorian-era snow-covered sets, period costumes, gorgeous stop-motion animation, and CGI inventions. I loved watching the cast and the dancers perform synchronized routines on the street in their costumes – those sequences were a joy to watch. My personal favourite numbers were the opening sequence, This Day, Mills’ big solo piece, Square Root of Possible, and the Gustafson’s fun number, Magic Man G. Not all of the songs are memorable but they are fun to watch in the moment.

Despite being surrounded by an A-list cast, newcomer Mills easily steals the show as Journey, who is super smart and upbeat and helps Jeronicus see the magic and joy in inventing once again. She is likeable, proud of her intelligence, has ambitions to be an inventor too, and has a very impressive singing voice. My second favourite is Key as the cartoonish evil imbecile Gustafson; he is great fun and his solo number is a highlight. Whitaker’s transformation from grumpy to happy didn’t take too much work – more consideration could have been given to that transition – but he was perfectly cast as Jeronicus. Anika Noni Rose, with her stunning voice, also offers up terrific support as Jeronicus’ estranged daughter Jessica, as well as Hugh Bonneville as banker Delacroix and Phylicia Rashad as a narrator of sorts.

Jingle Jangle isn’t perfect but that doesn’t matter – Talbert has managed to deliver a Christmassy movie that is full of joy, wonder, and that festive feeling. A must-watch for families this holiday season!

Streaming on Netflix from Friday 13th November

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.