Voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Daveed Diggs, Donnell Rawlings, Graham Norton, Questlove, Patricia Rashad, Angela Bassett

“There’s nothing like music to relieve the soul and uplift it.”

Joe Gardner (Foxx) was destined to be a jazz pianist. That’s his purpose. It’s everything he ever wanted. In the meantime, he works as a part-time music teacher at a public school and feels pressured by his imposing mother to move on from his dreams. After finally getting the opportunity of a lifetime, a spur-of-the-moment gig playing with Dorothea Williams (Bassett), Joe falls through a manhole to his death and lands in “the Great Beyond.” Desperate to return to Earth in time for the show, he accepts the role of mentor in which he’s charged with inspiring the obstinate, unborn soul known simply as 22 (Fey) who helps him plot his way back to the land of the living. Joe’s earthly life is rendered beautifully, significant as Pixar’s first foray into depicting a black protagonist. The everyday details from Joe’s local barbershop to his posture on the piano also mark a move for Pixar into an impressive layer of realism and a willingness by them to play around with different art styles. In this film alone, they use a completely different style for Joe’s life and his afterlife, but it’s the afterlife sequences that left me bored and disappointed. The afterlife being an abstract notion, Pixar had the chance to go in any number of directions with its ideas. The final result is a pretty limited, bland conception for a whale of an idea. It’s all black-and-white stick figures with funny accents, a story closely resembling Heaven Can Wait (or Here Comes Mr. Jordan), and afterlife scenes that are a drag.


Walter Tyrone Howard

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