Blu-ray review: “Soul” (2020)

“Soul” (2020)

Animated

Running time: 100 minutes

Written by: Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers

Directed by: Pete Docter

Featuring: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove and Angela Bassett

Jerry: “So what do you think you’ll do? How are you gonna spend your life?”

Joe: “I’m not sure. But I do know… I’m going to live every minute of it.”

Critical Commentary

Released recently on DVD and Blu-ray is the Oscar winning “Soul” (2020) a Pixar/Disney animated movie that is arguably its best effort original since the incredible “Coco” (2017) that actually dealt with some very similar themes, that of life and death. Like most if the Pixar oeuvre the audience aimed at is very wide in both age and demographic and in many cases they succeed in not only telling a good story but are able to wow audiences with the technical acumen of all that happens ‘behind the camera’ and of course there is an A-list cast that is involved led by Jamie Foxx who again proves his skill in portraying any character he takes on.

The story of “Soul” is based around Joe Gardner, a pianist and middle school music teacher living in New York City, dreams of playing jazz professionally. His mother Libba insists that he make his teaching job full time, fearing for his financial security. One day, Joe learns of an opening in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams and auditions at a music club. Impressed with Joe’s piano playing, Dorothea hires him for that night’s show. As Joe heads off, his excitement distracts him, and he falls down a manhole. Joe finds himself as a soul heading into the “Great Beyond”. Unwilling to die, he tries to escape but ends up in the “Great Before”, where counselors—all named Jerry—prepare unborn souls for life with the help of mentor souls. I am not going into any plot or narrative specifics as like many Pixar movies the less known about that aspect the better, but this is a truly original and inspiring story about death and of course life which resonates long after the credits role.

Co-written by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers as well as being co-directed by Docter and Powers this is a very well thought out and great looking movie, it is obvious that Docter is the main person in control as his pedigree at Pixar is high with huge success previously as writer/director with movies such as “Inside Out” (2015), “Up” (2009) and “Monsters, Inc.”  (2002). Of course the strength of this movie as well as other successful Pixar movies is the fact that new talent is added all the time making sure their is little stagnation in terms of plots and narratives. So here Pixar have recruited Mike Jones and Kemp Powers who give their own spin on the afterlife and bring their own points of view making “Soul” something unique both in using Jazz as a them and metaphor coupled with African Americans as the main culture used.

Having Jamie Foxx as the main character gives “Soul” immediate credibility as does the addition of Questlove and Angela Bassett who both bring very different skills to the movie but are complimentary as is Foxx with such stars as Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade and Phylicia Rashad who all offer their own skills in terms of humour, drama and understanding exactly what kind of movie they are appearing in.

As I have said “Soul” is one of the better Pixar movies made this decade, especially one that is not a sequel, of which there have been many, and in actuality is one of the better movies of last year. It won two Oscars, one being best Animated feature and the other for original score, which is telling as this is a music based movie. I recommend this movie highly and in fact should be owned on 4K as it is definitely a keeper.

Technical Commentary

Video

Soul comes to Blu-Ray with a stunning and vibrant 1080p transfer. In all honesty, it is hard to imagine a new Blu-Ray release looking better. The colors present in this transfer are practically leaping off the screen with the wide range of hues permeating every inch of the frame. This is about as close to perfect as a Blu-Ray disc can look.

Audio

This Blu-Ray utilizes a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track that gives this music-centric film a real vitality. There is an emphasis on the front channels for a good portion of the sounds, but activity kicks in to the surrounds and rears during performance sequences and action-oriented bits.

Special Features

  • Audio Commentary – Director Pete Docter, Producer Dana Murray, and Co-Writer/Director Kemp Powers all deliver a fantastic and informative commentary track as they all explore and discuss the themes and tones of the film. They also venture into keeping a mixed theme, relevant for all ages, the animation, their research, the music, and some fun stories from the production house. This is well worth the listen.
  • Not Your Average Joe (HD, 10 Mins.) – This takes a deep look into the charter of Joe, and just how much work went into him with various cast and crew interviews. It also discusses the diverse production team, Jamie Foxx’s voice acting, and even Jon Batiste’s inspiration for the character.
  • Astral Taffy (HD, 8 Mins.) – This dives into the Great Before and the world of all the souls, and how the creative team came up with and drew inspiration from real-world locations to create what was shown on screen.
  • Pretty Deep For A Cartoon (HD, 7 Mins.) – Cast and crew interviews talk about the big and more adult ideas that were implemented into this story. The script process and the big life lessons Joe and 22 learn throughout the film are discussed.
  • Into The Zone: The Music And Sound Of Soul (HD, 9 Mins.) – This featurette talks all about how all the different sounds and music were made for the film with some pretty good, yet short interviews with the music department.
  • Soul, Improvised (HD, 7 Mins.) – This takes a look at how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the production process and release of the film.
  • Jazz Greats (HD, 3 Mins.) – An all-too-quick extra that has some of the best musicians in Jazz music right now talking about the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 23 Mins.) – There are five deleted scenes in total, complete with an introduction. These scenes are visually unfinished.
  • Trailers (HD, 6 Mins.) – Three different trailers for the film.

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