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Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Writing Credits:
Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones

After landing the gig of a lifetime, a New York jazz pianist suddenly finds himself trapped in a strange land between Earth and the afterlife.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby Plus 7.1
English Dolby 5.1
English Descriptive Audio 2.0
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby Plus 7.1
Supplements Subtitles:
Quebecois French

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 3/23/2021

• Audio Commentary with Director Pete Docter, Producer Dana Murray, and Co-Writer/Co-Director Kemp Powers
• “Not Your Average Joe” Featurette
• “Astral Taffy” Featurette
• “Pretty Deep for a Cartoon” Featurette
• “Into the Zone” Featurette
• “Soul, Improvised” Featurette
• “Jazz Greats” Featurette
• 5 Deleted Scenes
• Trailers
• Sneak Peeks
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Soul [4K UHD] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2021)

When conceived, Pixar initially intended 1999’s Toy Story 2 as a direct-to-video project. However, it turned out so well that the studio pushed it to a theatrical release – a good call, as the movie made buckets of money and became that year’s third biggest hit.

21 years later, Soul took the opposite path. Meant to run theatrically in June 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed this to November 2020… and then not at all in the US. Rather than put Soul onto the limited screens open at that time, Disney decided to run it on their streaming service instead, so the film enjoyed no theatrical exhibition in the States.

Which made it the only Pixar movie I didn’t see on the big screen. Why Disney couldn’t have done a dual theatrical/streaming release befuddles me, but they made their choice.

Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) teaches music at a middle school. This doesn’t represent his real dream, though, as he wishes he could prosper as a jazz pianist.

After he enjoys a strong performance at a New York club, it looks like Joe might finally push toward his musical goal. However, he suffers an accident that separates his soul from his body.

Desperate to fulfill his musical ambitions, Joe refuses to go to the Great Beyond. Instead, he finds himself stuck in the “You Seminar”, a limbo-like existence between life and the afterlife where souls must discover their “spark” before they go into babies’ bodies.

Joe finagles a gig as a “mentor”, someone who assists souls as they seek this spark. He winds up assigned to “22” (Tina Fey), a soul who doesn’t want to head to Earth. Joe hopes to use this situation to allow himself back into his mortal body.

Perhaps because the pandemic altered the usual advertising methods, I knew surprisingly little about Soul as I went into it. Because I rarely watch TV, I saw no commercials for it there, and with the lengthy theater closures, I’m not sure I ever saw a trailer.

This left me much less informed about the movie’s story or characters than usual. Indeed, beyond a vague understanding of the film’s involvement of the afterlife, I entered without any real concept of what to expect.

On the surface, Soul can come across as derivative. As acknowledged during the filmmakers’ commentary, Pixar’s own 2015 hit Inside Out acted as an influence.

We can see parallels with a mix of other “afterlife” flicks such as Albert Brooks’ Defending Your Life. Some “body swap” tales end up as inspirations for parts of the movie as well.

Despite these elements, Soul always manages to feel like its own creation. While it probably should seem derivative, the film comes across as far too clever and inventive to appear like a ripoff.

Much of the movie walks a path that could – and probably should – make Soul sappy and maudlin, but the Pixar folks know how to navigate around those pitfalls. In particular, the 22 character keeps the film away from these problems.

No one will mistake 22 from a really edgy role, but she gives the tale some necessary snark – albeit fairly gentle snark. If I wanted to complain, I could note that 22 seems way less aggressive and irritating than she should.

Still, 22 does add enough light bite to the film to take away from the potentially goopy subject matter, and Fey plays the role nicely. She also has the chops to transition 22 when the character inevitably becomes more likable.

Soul boasts creative visuals that add to the movie’s impact, and the story manages to find a mix of unexpected paths. As noted, it does come with its obvious influences, but it doesn’t copy those, so the tale locates semi-surprising avenues.

Ultimately, this becomes a sweet and inspiring fable without much one could call schmaltzy or gooey. I don’t know where it ranks among Pixar’s best, but it turns into a wholly likable affair.

Footnote: stick around for a post-credits tag scene that will seem familiar to viewers of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The Disc Grades: Picture A/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Soul appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. This became a terrific presentation.

At all times, sharpness looked immaculate – within visual choices, that is. Much of Soul opted for an intentionally soft appearance to depict the airiness of the You Pavilion, so I couldn’t fault the transfer for that. Overall accuracy seemed splendid, and the image felt tight when it needed to be.

No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes/artifacts were absent. Of course, no source flaws cropped up either, as the movie stayed clean and fresh.

With all the varied settings on display, we found a nice array of colors, all of which excelled. Though the movie could lean blue, we still got a wide palette that offered fine vivacity, as we got a lively set of hues. The disc’s HDR added oomph and range to the colors.

Blacks came across as dark and deep, while low-light shots seemed smooth and clear. HDR brought impact and power to whites and contrast. Nothing problematic ever graced the screen in this top-notch presentation.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack of Soul worked well. The soundfield lacked a lot of opportunities to really dazzle, but it presented an unusually smooth soundscape.

The mix featured a lot of gentle ambience, and those elements blended together well. They also provided excellent localization and movement.

The surrounds usually focused on those atmospheric elements, but a few scenes added life. This wasn’t the most active mix, but it still did what it needed to do.

Audio quality was always positive. Speech was natural and distinctive, without edginess or concerns.

Music seemed lively and full, while effects were clear and concise. Low-end demonstrated good punch when necessary. Again, the soundtrack didn’t provide a consistently engulfing affair, but it was a solid mix anyway.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? The Atnos mix added a bit more range and immersiveness.

As for the visuals, Soul offered a native 4K production, so it boasted a nice step up in quality. While the Blu-ray also looked great, the 4K disc became tighter, more vivid and more accurate. Expect a good upgrade.

No extras appear on the 4K disc, but the included Blu-ray copy brings a mix of materials, and on Blu-ray One, we open with an audio commentary from director Pete Docter, producer Dana Murray, and co-writer/co-director Kemp Powers. (Co-writer Mike Jones also pops up briefly near the end of the film.) All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, music, animation and art, influences, cast and performances, pandemic-related challenges and connected domains.

Pixar commentaries usually work very well, and this one follows that trend. It gives us an excellent look at the decisions made for the film and offers a vivid, engaging discussion of the production.

Two featurettes follow, and Not Your Average Joe runs nine minutes, 45 seconds and offers info from Powers, Murray, Docter, Jones, Inclusion and Outreach VP, Britta Wilson, executive producer Kiri Hart, story supervisor Kristen Lester, additional story supervision/story lead Trevor Jimenez, story artist Aphton Corbin, character modeling lead Mara MacMahon, jazz composer Jon Batiste, and actor Jamie Foxx.

“Average” looks at aspects of the Joe character and its influences and development. It becomes a tight little overview with many good insights.

Astral Taffy goes for eight minutes, 12 seconds and involves Docter, Murray, Corbin, Hart, Jimenez, director of photography – lighting Ian Megibben, development artists Dave Strick and Michael Fredericksen, production designer Steve Pilcher, sets art director Paul Abadilla, shading art director Bryn Imagire and artist Deanna Marsigliese.

Via “Taffy”, we examine the creation of the soul world. Expect another useful and engaging show.

Blu-ray One concludes with a preview for Luca.

On Blu-ray Two, Pretty Deep For a Cartoon fills six minutes, 29 seconds with info from Murray, Docter, MacMahon, Hart, Lester, Jones, Powers, Foxx, second film editor Robert Grahamjones, and actor Tina Fey.

“Deep” looks at additional character/story/thematic areas. It gives us a few more good details, though it seems a little more superficial than its predecessors.

Into the Zone lasts eight minutes, 24 seconds and involves Docter, Batiste, Powers, Grahamjones, sound designer Ren Klyce, film editor Kevin Nolting, and composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross,

This program discusses sound design and music. We locate a good view of these topics.

Next comes Soul, Improvised, a six-minute, 49-second piece with comments from Murray, Docter, Powers, Batiste, lighting artist Jessica Harvill, visual effects supervisor Michael Fong, systems directors Tyler Fazakerley and Joseph Frost, and associate producer Michael Warch.

“Improvised” looks at the challenges related to the need to complete the film during the COVID pandemic. That unusual issue makes this a compelling featurette.

Jazz Greats occupies two minutes, 50 seconds with remarks from Batiste, cultural and music consultants Terri Lynn Carrington, Earl McIntyre, Marcus McLaurine, Dr. Peter Archer, Aaron Diehl and Camille Prescott-Archer.

“Greats” talks about the movie’s attempts at musical authenticity. It feels self-congratulatory and not especially informative.

Five Deleted Scenes take up a total of 22 minutes, 17 seconds. That total includes introductions from Lester and Jones.

The various scenes offer a bit more exposition as well as some added character moments, one that includes a deleted role. These become interesting alternate segments.

Blu-ray Two ends with three trailers. We get a “global teaser” in English, a “global teaser” in Polish, and an “international trailer” in Russian.

Though it reflects other movies in its genre, Soul finds its own way more than enough to turn into a unique experience. Warm, witty and moving, the film scores on all levels. The 4K UHD brings excellent picture along with solid audio and a fairly informative set of supplements. This turns into another winner from Pixar.

To rate this film visit the original review of SOUL

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