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Soul
Disney Pixar once again triumphs with an eye-popping, endlessly imaginative, and emotionally charged fantasy called Soul that completely belies the simplicity of its title as we are bombarded with a story rich with inspiration from films of the past that creates a deliciously unique tale of friendship, passion, and making the most out of what life offers.

This 2020 animated gem is about a junior high school band teacher named Joe who gets a chance to audition for a jazz quartet led by the legendary Dorothea Williams. While running home after nailing the audition, Joe falls down a manhole and is transported out of his body into a magical purgatory because, as he and the audience learn, he has lost his passion for music. Anxious to get back to his body so that he can be on time for his new job, Joe realizes his only chance of getting back to his body is with the help of a soul without a body named 22. Joe thinks everything's OK when he and 22 return to Manhattan but things are just beginning to get complicated as 22's soul enters Joe's body and Joe's soul enters a cat.

Director and screenwriter Pete Docter, who also wrote Inside Out and Monsters Inc. has crafted a story that borrows a little from his own work (as a matter of fact, Inside Out did flash through my head as I was watching this), but also borrows elements from films like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Down to Earth, and Onward, but it is not outright plagiarism, it is loving homage wrapped around a lovely story about another friendship that was never meant to be, but both participants become richer for it. Initial frustration when Joe falls down the manhole took a little longer to get over than I would have liked, but something told me that after what Joe went through to audition for Dorothea Williams, this wouldn't be taken away from us.

We know we're in for something very special when the "When You Wish Upon a Star" theme played at the beginning of the movie is played by a very off-key junior high school band. The animation is actually stunning here...the colors are a perfect combination of stark bright colors and dreamy pastels. Loved the way the nightclub was lit and I have never seen such a realistic depiction of downtown Manhattan in an animated film before. Look at the detail that went into the subway scenes. Loved when Joe was trying to return to earth on his own and earth kept spitting him back out. Art direction and film editing are other Oscar-worthy elements of the production.

The voice work, as expected, is on the money with standout work from Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as Joe, Tina Fey as 22, Angela Bassett as Dorothea Williams, Rachel House as Terry, and Phylicia Rachad as Joe's mother. Disney Pixar really knocked it out of the park here and the final 15 minutes of the film did ignite the tear ducts of this reviewer.