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What critics are saying about Pixar’s newest film

Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner in Disney Pixar’s “Soul.”


Pixar has done it again. The Academy Award-winning studio owned by Disney is set to release its latest triumph on the company’s streaming service on Christmas Day.

“Soul,” the 23rd feature from Pixar, centers around Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher with dreams of playing piano professionally. After securing a gig playing with a famed jazz quartet, Joe falls down a manhole, loses consciousness and enters an ethereal plane that is both the afterlife and the beforelife.

Desperate to get back to earth, Joe teams up with a not-yet-born soul called 22 (Tina Fey) to return to his body. However, 22 accidentally winds up in Joe’s body and Joe’s soul finds its way into the hospital therapy cat Mr. Mittens. Now it’s a race against time for Joe to get his body back.

“Soul” is a “gorgeous muddle,” wrote Nicholas Barber of the film in his review for the BBC.

This sentiment was shared by many critics. While beautifully animated and filled with a gorgeous musical score, “Soul” retreads some of the ground that Pixar explored in previous films “Coco” and “Inside Out.”

Its plot is convoluted, a knot of several stories and ideas that sometimes mesh together and sometimes contradict each other, critics said. Still, the film’s heart is what has earned it a 97% “Fresh” rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes from 99 reviews.

Here’s what critics thought of “Soul” ahead of its debut on Disney+ on Friday.

Dan Rubins, Slant

The music of “Soul” has been widely praised by reviewers. The score is bifurcated between the trippy, otherworldly sounds of the ethereal plane and the melodic jazz-inspired world of New York City.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — primary members of the band Nine Inch Nails, who also composed scores for HBO’s “Watchmen” series — handle the sounds heard in the world of souls. Jon Batiste, often seen alongside Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” with his band Stay Human, arranged the jazz pieces.

“Not since ‘Fantasia’ has a Disney film treated music with such reverence, as the seed of all the visual flowering that follows,” said Dan Rubins in his review for Slant. “As pinks and purples swirl around Joe and as his fingers coax unexpected harmonies from the keyboard (Jon Batiste provides the impassioned playing), ‘Soul’ gives itself over fully to his music.”

“For these gloriously substantial few minutes, it’s jazz set to animation rather than the other way around,” he wrote.

Read the full review from Slant.

Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx voice characters in Disney Pixar’s “Soul.”


Rafer Guzman, Newsday

Nicholas Barber, BBC

Jamie Foxx voices Joe Gardner in Disney Pixar’s “Soul.”


Dan Kois, Slate