[REVIEW] ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ or How to Make a Good Movie From a Show I Don’t Like

I must be honest I have tried to get into the television show Bob’s Burgers many times and have always failed. Being a big The Simpsons fan it seemed like something I should like, but I found the humor to be too gross and off-putting for my taste. I’ve heard from friends that the first season isn’t that great but then once it finds its footing it can be a real hoot so maybe I just need to try some random episodes  and I would love some recommendations if any readers have some.

Anyway, I say all this because I was not expecting to like this movie. I was open to liking it (otherwise what’s the point in going to the screening) but it seemed unlikely. Well, count me surprised because I ended up really enjoying it! In fact, am I now a Bob’s Burgers fan?

I think what won me over, where the show hasn’t, is how endearing the characters are and how likable the spirit of family is. The story is simple with a sinkhole blocking the entrance to the families famous eatery and them all working together to uncover a mystery behind their landlord Mr Fischoeder (Kevin Kline).

Not only is the movie sweet but it is also very funny with lots of gags involving each family member. I particularly enjoyed anything with Louise (Kristen Schaal) and her struggles to be brave towards bullies at school who tease her for her bunny ears hat.

I also really enjoyed all the songs (I guess music is a thing in the show which I didn’t know about). They were catchy and well preformed. All the vocal performances were great, and I appreciate an animated film that almost exclusively uses voice actors. I hate when movies like Lego Ninjago ditch the voice actors for celebrities.

The Bob’s Burgers Movie will be a real treat for any animation fan as it has scene after scene of glossy 2D animation. I loved in particular the segments in the last act of the film when they are being chased through an underground bunker in an amusement park. The dark browns and blacks and the speed of the cars was wonderful.

All in all this film has the potential to be the surprise of the summer. I laughed, bopped to the songs and enjoyed spending time with this quirky family. If you are on the fence give it a shot. It just might surprise you as well. My only critique of the film is there was a time with the villain monologuing that went on too long and started to drag but once the section was done it picked back up again.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Current Mini Reviews (Downton Abbey, Chip ‘N Dale, Along for the Ride, Top Gun OG)

Hey everyone! It’s that time again where I give some quick updates on the films I’ve been watching. Unfortunately I just don’t have the time to write up a full review on every film I see. It’s impossible!

Aside from Men, which I hated, it’s been a pretty good month of movie-watching. Particularly in animation we are getting a lot of creativity and innovation which makes me happy to see (especially since I didn’t like Turning Red from earlier in the year).

So here’s the reviews:

Downton Abbey: A New Era-

I was a big fan of the 2019 Downton Abbey film and the show so I came into this new film a little biased to enjoy it. However, I have heard from a number of friends who haven’t watched the show that they have enjoyed the movies so it might surprise non-fans. Either way, this new entry Downton Abbey: A New Era is everything I want in this very fun frothy continuing journey of the Crawley family and their downstairs staff.

Writer Julian Fellowes does a great job balancing a ton of characters and story-threads which is particularly difficult this time because we have the group splitting up- half going to visit a villa in the Mediterranean and half managing the house while a movie is being shot by new to the series Hugh Dancy playing director Jack Barber.

My only nitpick is with Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). I wish they could have gotten Matthew Goode in the movie as her husband. What they came up with instead was frustrating. All the other plotlines I really enjoyed. It’s particularly fun when the servants get a chance to dress up to be in the movie.

The highlight is always Maggie Smith as Violet and she’s spectacular here. My advice is have some tea, take your friends and go back into time for a delightful experience at the theaters!

(And check out our catch up podcast on the series and first movie above)

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Review - IGN

Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers

I have to say I was as skeptical as anyone going into this movie. I didn’t like the trailers and the images I saw looked like a lame nostalgia grab. However, count me shocked because I had a blast with Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers. It all comes down to the script by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, which is chocked full of gags and laughs that particularly animation fans will go gaga for.

I don’t want to spoil the gags for you but evidently they were going for a Who Framed Roger Rabbit feel and I think they totally succeeded. We have cameos from not just Disney like in Ralph Breaks the Internet but from studios like Sony and Netflix. And there were just a lot of hilarious gags like I loved the setup of Dale doing the comic-con circuit and getting ”CGI surgery” to relive the glory days. That’s clever.

The voice cast is also excellent with John Mullaney, Andy Samberg, Will Arnett and more. This should entertain both kids and adults so definitely worth your time on Disney Plus. It’s a hilarious time with our dynamic duo.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Along for the Ride' Review: Netflix Dips Into Sarah Dessen Library | IndieWire

Along for the Ride

New on Netflix is the rom-com Along for the Ride. It is based on the book by Sarah Dessen and has lots of beautiful beach scenery but unfortunately that’s all I enjoyed about it. Teen love stories are usually not my favorite but this does try for some deeper themes with our lead Auden (Emma Pasarow) dealing with divorce, a new baby sister and trying to make friends in a new town of Colby.

I didn’t think Pasarow and her guy Eli (Belmont Cameli) had much chemistry and the plot dragged on without much to engage the viewer. i wasn’t invested in the relationship or much beyond her relationship with her Father (Dermot Mulroney) and Step-Mom (Kate Bosworth). Andie McDowell is also good as her Mother.

I hate to say it but this one was dull. It’s about insomniacs and it just about put me to sleep. Also the acting was weak at times. I’d skip this one.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Tom Cruise Top Gun Top Gun Maverick: film confronti Festival di Cannes. Foto | Style

Top Gun 1996

With the release of Top Gun Maverick coming soon I wanted to log my review of the original Top Gun for rotten tomatoes. I just had my friends over for a watching party and we had a great time. I can see why some find it too cheesy but in my opinion that’s part of the appeal. I like the posing, corny dialogue, and volleyball playing with the campy 80s music in the background.

The flying scenes still hold up with terrific sound design and music from Harold Faltermeyer. It also has a good mixture of light and heavy moments with a cast that has chemistry including of course a young Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and Meg Ryan to name a few.

Everyone around me seems to be loving the new film but I will always have a fondness for the original Top Gun. It’s what you want in a big bombastic cheesy blockbuster.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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[REVIEW] ‘Turning Red’: Pixar’s Puberty Metaphor Turns Sour (Maybe Mild Spoilers)

Going into 2022 one of my most anticipated movies of the year was the latest Pixar film Turning Red. In fact, when it was first announced at the Disney investor presentation I made the promotional image of Mei Lee and her panda my wallpaper on my phone because I thought it looked so charming.

Unfortunately now I have seen Turning Red I must own to being very disappointed by the film and in fact it is the first Pixar film I’ve outright disliked (yes even Cars 2 has a bonkers sensibility I mildly enjoy). I even watched it a second time just to make sure of my response and yep this one isn’t for me.

Let’s talk about the positives. First, I like the idea of a family film trying to tackle puberty and anxiety in an honest and straight-forward way. How they succeeded at that is another question but I am sure there will be a lot of people who will connect with Mei Lee and her family’s journey. I also love the representation and seeing not only a Chinese-Canadian family but also Mei’s diverse friend group.

Also the animation is outstanding as is usually the case with Pixar. I know its received lots of chatter online, but I enjoyed the anime feel especially with the eyes and transformation of the characters from human to animal. The fur on panda Mei is so lush and cuddly that I’m sure it will be the source of many plush Disney toys to come.

Part of my problem with Turning Red I must own to my aversion for whiney teen coming of age movies to begin with. Movies that others love like The Edge of Seventeen I find insufferable and annoying. If you love those kind of stories you’ll probably enjoy Turning Red more than I did.

But my personal taste aside, while bold, the whole metaphor Turning Red uses didn’t really work. The idea is Mei Lee comes from a family where upon her first period the girls turn into a red panda when they are upset. While the concept of a period making someone ‘turn red’ is a bit on the nose it could have been effective but the story has problems.

First of all, the mother, Ming, is unhinged and unreasonable. For example, in one scene she lambasts a convenience store clerk Mei has a crush on because Mei has drawings of him in her sketchbook. Not only would this be incredibly embarrassing it doesn’t make sense. Why should he be responsible for her drawings/crush and is her liking someone a character flaw? How could she possibly feel this is a correct response to a basic life experience? Also if you knew this was going to happen wouldn’t you try to prepare your daughter a little bit?

Mei is also a lot of personality and what some will find endearing I often found grating.

Such strange behavior made me annoyed with the characters and then the fighting between Mom and daughter got old real fast. But beyond that the metaphor doesn’t really work. So she turns into a panda when she starts her period but there’s a whole ritual that makes the panda go away? I realize this is a magical realism story but just inventing rituals for cultures and religion (Mei’s family owns and operates a temple) is a strange choice and then the plot of her becoming a party attraction for a bully’s birthday mixed in with the family drama fell flat.

The thing is none of the inspirations for the panda are within Mei’s control. She gets her period- can’t control. She deals with anxiety and emotions- can’t control. She goes through puberty- can’t control. Teens will relate to this but unfortunately they don’t have a ritual that will stop all of these tough things. Mei decides to embrace the panda but all of us normal people don’t get that choice. It’s happening whether we like it or not. Evidently Mei’s mother has been suppressing her panda for years but then why was the ritual necessary? The ritual allows her to bring it back when she wants to? But then again how does that connect with actual teen struggles who can’t make their ‘pandas’ come and go when they want?

It seems like most critics didn’t mind this murky metaphor but it bothered me and kept me from fully embracing the film. I also didn’t connect with the humor of Turning Red or the focus on 2002 boy band called 4*TOWN. It’s a shame they set the movie in 2002 because an Asian KPOP type band like BTS would have been a fun way to bring in the culture rather than just generic boy band.

At the end of the day, I admire what director Domee Shi was going for with Turning Red but the script lets down that ambitious premise making for more of a mess than a masterpiece.  I hope you all enjoy it more than I did but this puberty metaphor gets a pass from me.

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy

PS- Turning Red should still have been played in theaters!

[REVIEW] Home Sweet Home Alone or Keep Your Remake You Filthy Animal

Anyone who follows my content knows how much I love the original Home Alone from1990. I saw it when I was just about to turn10 with my grandparents in California and it was the first comedy I really connected with. The whole premise of a kid being alone and not only getting by but defending his home from bad guys was very empowering and hilarious. I still love it to this day.

Then we got a really solid if familiar sequel in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York which benefited from the presence of Tim Curry as most movies do. By the time the remaining sequels came out I was a teenager and I honestly have still never seen 3-5 but they seemed harmless enough.

Now we have a sequel from Disney on Disney Plus with Home Sweet Home Alone and I was actually optimistic this might help reinvigorate the series. I like young Archie Yates and the rest of the cast looked solid. I didn’t even mind the trailer which most of film twitter immediately rejected.

Unfortunately my hopes were in vain because Home Sweet Home Alone is one of the most misguided remakes of recent memory. It’s as if the makers had no idea what made the original special and make some of the most baffling decisions they could have made.

Home Alone' mayhem returns in Disney+ 'Home Sweet Home Alone' trailer

The biggest problem is they decide to make the focus of the film on the robbers, a couple played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney, instead of the young boy Max (Yates). We get a detailed backstory into why they need to break into the Max’s house and we meet their children and find out they might be losing their home. This is not what we want in a movie where we are going to spend a long time basically torturing these 2 individuals. They need to be bad guys who come close to killing Kevin in the original film. This is the only way that type of slapstick is funny.

Home Sweet Home Alone' Review: Lame Reboot Leaves Us Homesick - Variety

The other problem is everything is too easy for Max. In the original Kevin struggles both with his traps (which he almost gets caught several times and eventually has to be saved by the old man) and with being alone. He is scared of the furnace and steals the toothbrush because he is afraid of the store manager. This helps us become endeared to Kevin and we feel for him when he starts to miss his family.

In Home Sweet Home Alone, Archie faces none of that. Most of the traps are too elaborate for him to set up- like one where he would have to move an entire trampoline all by himself. You could make that claim about the original but most of the traps were pretty simple like ornaments and nails that a kid could orchestrate. Even when he puts his plan on the chalkboard wall he would need a giant ladder in order to draw all that. In the original it’s drawn on a piece of paper like a normal kid would do.

Some kids may have fun with Home Sweet Home Alone but in this critics opinion they missed the mark. Missed it as far as tone, laughs and especially family heart.

3 out of 10

Frown Worthy

 

[REVIEW] ‘Free Guy’ or A Charming Video Game Rom-Com Delight

For some reason I seem to enjoy movies that dive into technology more than most. I liked Ralph Breaks the Internet, Ready Player One, Space Jam: A New Legacy…the list goes on. I even like old classics of the genre like Tron and the anime film Summer Wars. Maybe it’s just because I’m online so much that these movies strike a chord with me and make me laugh but it is true I tend to like those types of stories.

Well, add another to the list in this genre because I loved the new movie Free Guy! To be honest, at first I wasn’t looking forward to it because I’m not a huge Ryan Reynold gal; however, he did a surprise commercial during Hallmark’s Christmas in July that I thought was hilarious and I knew I had to see this film

I am the founder of the Hallmarkies Podcast so naturally this promo cracked me up! And what a clever concept to have a video game character become self-aware. I am not a gamer but watching this reminded me of a mixture of the innocence of Emmett from The Lego Movie and the fun of the recent Jumanji reboot.

Ryan Reynolds plays the role of Guy who is an NPC or non-player character in a game called Free City. In this game the bank Guy works at is robbed at gunpoint each day and he along with a security guard played by Lil Rel Howery put up with it the robbers each day. One day he sees a kick-butt female character named Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer) and he starts to ask questions about his world.

Meanwhile on earth Joe Keery from Stranger Things plays a man named Keys who works for a video game maker called Antwan played by Taika Waititi. He suspects Antwan of stealing his video game coding but can’t figure out a way to prove it. I won’t tell you anything else but both aspects of the movie really worked for me.

My favorite part of Free Guy is a surprising one. While I loved the humor (it’s hilarious) the romance is what sold me. It’s no wonder they had an ad on Hallmark Channel for the movie. It’s a dual love story! I loved the chemistry between Keys and Millie and I also loved the banter between Molotov Girl and Guy. I was invested in both relationships and wanted them to succeed.

As I said, I also really enjoyed the humor. There are cameos which are fantastic (and of course I won’t spoil) but it’s not just cameos. It’s a script that uses its cast well especially Reynolds and comments on everything from youtubers to overpriced coffee. I was laughing from beginning to end.

I loved the sore by Christophe Beck but the film uses its soundtrack well for some very good laughs. I don’t know anything about video games but all of the details of the game felt believable to me. It’s also a movie that has something to say about free will and what constitutes a valuable worthwhile life. The script does a great job of getting you attached to the characters and wanting them to succeed.

Some may find Waititi’s villain to be a bit one note but I was fine with it. He’s such a charismatic, funny guy that it worked. It does borrow from other films but it still felt fresh and enjoyable because of the cracking script and energetic performances. It does have some language and innuendo so I would check the parents guide before you go if that is a concern for you.

I left Free Guy with a big smile on my face. It’s one of the best times I’ve had at the movies in a long while. Let me know what you think if you get to see it.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Jungle Cruise’ or a Puntasatic Adventure

In some ways a movie like Disney’s new Jungle Cruise should be made for me. I’m a big Disneyland fan, love the Jungle Cruise attraction and am always up for an adventure story. Even last Fall I did a whole video ranking all of the current films based on Disney rides (even The Country Bears!)

Ever since the success of the original Pirates of the Caribbean Disney has been dying for a new successful franchise and whether it be Tomorrowland, The Lone Ranger, John Carter, A Wrinkle in Time and more. It’s discouraging because when these new franchise attempts fail (both critically and box office) they go back to the bland but profitable live action remakes.

Anyway, now we have Jungle Cruise and it’s a light, enjoyable romp through the jungle. That said, it’s a little frustrating because it had all the pieces to be one of my favorites of the year but several choices it makes hold it back from greatness. It’s ok, not great.

The strengths of Jungle Cruise lies in its leads with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson having nice chemistry together. The banter between them feels classic and the action scenes bring back the joy and thrills of a classic adventure film (this film leans into the nostalgia many will have for films like The Mummy, Indiana Jones, Romancing the Stone and even Tintin).

I also really enjoyed Jack Whitehall as Blunt’s uppety brother MacGregor. He was new to me as an actor but he stole every scene he was in. I particularly enjoyed his interactions with a pet leopard they have on board the cruise! The CGI wasn’t the best on the leopard but Whitehall made it funny so I didn’t care. Speaking of CGI, there is also a really well done action scene where Johnson steers the boat away from a giant waterfall.

One of the best things about the Disneyland ride is the punny skippers with their embarrassing Dad jokes. I was worried this film would forgo that aspect and take itself too seriously. Fortunately Johnson is up for the cheesy humor, and I got a real kick out of that. The jokes made it a cheeky fun adventure romp.

The problem with Jungle Cruise is it tries way too hard to build lore and create a mythology around the adventure. It should have just been a simple escapade through the jungle but instead we get long sections with Johnson explaining the backstory of the special flower, enchanted conquistadors and aspects to his character that don’t really help endear him to us more in any way.

These long scenes of exposition drag the movie down and we feel its over 2 hour length more than we should. There are also some weird music choices and the CGI can be weak for a film of this magnitude.

I enjoyed Jesse Plemons as the evil Prince Joachim villain but did not need the conquistadors or Paul Giamatti (who’s scenes must have been cut) as a competing merchant named Nilo. It begins to feel overwrought and tiresome when it should be super fun.

Nevertheless, I do think Jungle Cruise is worth watching and a throwback to wholesome family adventure films of the past. I hope it does well and we see more films like it in the future.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the backside of water!”

6 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Pixar 45: ‘LUCA’ or Some Fun in the Pixar Sun

It goes without saying that any Pixar film is going to have a certain amount of buzz surrounding it. Their latest film Luca is perhaps getting the most discussion because it is not getting a theatrical release but going straight to Disney Plus. Some have seen this as a sign of a lack of faith by the studio in the project while others have deemed it a compliment as it is being singled out to market the streaming service, which is so key to their current business strategy. I guess it depends whether you see Disney Plus as more of a dumping ground or shining platform which side you land on.

VIDEO: New Trailer for Pixar's

Anyway, beyond its release let’s talk about the movie itself. What’s interesting is a lot of the feedback I am hearing I do not agree with. I know I’m in the minority but Soul wasn’t a favorite of mine. I still recommended it (and certainly don’t hate it) but the script became muddled and the message felt all over the place- particularly when it comes to the mid-section involving a cat. At one point it seemed to be saying to embrace your spark, find out what you are meant to do in life but in other ways it said that spark alienated you from other people and led to unhappiness: that a normal life is better than a creatively inspired one.

So Soul is a movie I admire for the music and animation but the script let me down. Now Luca, on the other hand, has much smaller ideas and it in my opinion does a better job in executing that simple vision. To put it simply Luca is a story about friendship, summer and growing up. That’s it. No big emotional punches or big action scenes. Just a simple sweet story.

To be more specific Luca tells the story of a young fish creature named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) who bristles up against his controlling parents and wonders what can be in the world above the ocean (obviously a plotline I love. The Little Mermaid die hard fan!). One day he meets a boy named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), and he realizes they become human when dry on land and turn back into fish creatures when wet.

Both Alberto and Luca’s dream of racing around Italy on Vespas and when they meet a girl named Gulia (Emma Berman) they enter a race to win their own vespa. There’s a ‘villain’ Ercole who challenges them in the race and plays the part of the bully needed for this kind of narrative. The bigger threat is any of them getting wet from the ocean or even worse rain!

I can see why some think the story of Luca is too simple but I don’t agree. I liked being with Luca, Alberto and Giulia as they ate gelato and raced around the Italian countryside together. And it’s not like there aren’t deeper themes which can be pulled from the story. Obviously the idea of hiding who you are and being fearful of being discovered is something that will ring true for LGTBQ audiences and more.

But mostly it’s a story about friendship and I’m a huge sucker for those kinds of stories. There’s something special about the friendships we make as children. The free spirited nature and lack of agenda give a purity to the relationships that is tough to impossible to replicate as adults. Luca captures this magic, and I really enjoyed it.

And hey it made me want to go to Italy so nothing wrong with that!

Fortunately if you have Disney Plus you don’t have to decide whether to watch Luca or Soul. You can enjoy both to your hearts desire. Someday I hope to see both in a theater but for now I’m grateful for the artists at Pixar and their incredible track record of touching films.

Luca is a delightful tale of summer friendship the whole family will love

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

[REVIEW] ‘Flora & Ulysses’ or Super Squirrels and Little Girls Are Adorable

One of the best things to come out of Disney Plus is the return of the mid-budget family film from Walt Disney Studios. With the exception of their Disneynature brand, the studio for many years only made giant blockbusters with over $100 million budgets. This was a real shame because I love the small live action Disney films from my childhood. Films like Newsies, White Fang, Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken and The Journey of Natty Gann are practically as important to me as the Disney animated films. I’m so happy that a new generation of children will get films like these by way of Disney Plus!

Last year the best from Disney Plus in this department was Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. It is a sweet, well written film about an awkward child, dealing with trauma by setting up his own detective agency. It made my top films of 2020, and I absolutely loved it.

While not as good as Timmy Failure, this year’s first contender is the new film Flora & Ulysses. It is a very sweet film about a little girl named Flora who helps rescue (literally giving CPR)a squirrel named Ulysses that just might have superpowers!

Flora’s parents played by Alyson Hannigan and Ben Schwartz are going through a separation and obviously that is hard on everyone. Hannigan is fantastic as her mother who is also a romance novelist with writers block. They get a lot of laughs out of her book titles and covers and the fact she won the Jack and Rose from Titanic prize for writing.

Image result for flora and ulysses movie
I also thought Schwartz was warm and authentic as Flora’s aspiring comic book artist Dad. He is obviously very sad about what is happening to his marriage but not so much that he lets his daughter suffer.

The real star is young Matilda Lawler as Flora. She is so cute and I am extremely impressed this was her first film role. I predict we will be seeing a lot of her. Especially acting with a cgi creature is not easy and she did a fantastic job.

Parents of divorced kids might be a little annoyed by the ending of Flora & Ulysses and it is perhaps a touch too long but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It will be a wonderful movie to watch for family movie night and all enjoy together. It’s so enchanting it will make you wish for your own super-powered squirrel!

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

If you get to see Flora &  Ulysses let me know what you think. Do you miss mid-budget live action films from Disney?

Pixar 44: SOUL or Is it ok for Pixar to Release a Film for Adults?

Before writing this review I realized I never did my blog review of Onward. I reviewed it on my youtube channel but it was such a crazy time in March I forgot to review it on the blog. I will do a longer review for Onward eventually but it will be out of order with Soul because I am short on time at the moment. (I enjoyed Onward for the record).

Honestly I have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to reviewing Soul. I really debated how to best express myself. I even watched it twice to be sure of my thoughts (I don’t normally do that but it is an unsual film and I wanted to be sure).

Let me start out by saying I did enjoy the film. It is bold, ambitious and full of things to think about and discuss. I greatly admire Pete Doctor for making such a film and for Disney/Pixar to have the audacity to put $150 million into what is essentially a CGI arthouse piece.

And I think that is essentially the best way to view Soul. If we look at it as an experimental arthouse piece rather than a blockbuster feature film it makes more sense and is more satisfactory.

Now I am going to say something that might be unpopular: I don’t think Soul is for kids. It doesn’t have anything offensive, and I suppose some more philosophic children may like it, but I don’t think kids will enjoy the picture. It has no gateway for children to access the film like Inside Out did. In fact, it doesn’t have as much in common with Inside Out as many people are expecting (or at least I was expecting)

Inside Out has Riley as our entryway into the world of the brain. In addition, emotions are something easy for children to relate to. It’s also funny and sweet with scenarios kids can understand like losing a hockey game or moving to a new town.

Soul, on the other hand, is about a grown man named Joe who is struggling with the meaning of his life. He has questions like, should he settle for the teacher job or keep trying to get the big gig and share his love of jazz music with the world? Footnote- It’s kind of weird how the movie looks down on teaching (it makes sense for the character but just unexpected in a family film). Joe doesn’t have any children nor are there any children in his life aside from his students who are only briefly seen (nothing like Russell in Up for instance).

At the beginning of the film Joe gets his big break playing for a jazz legend at the Half Note Club. Unfortunately on his way home he falls through a man-hole in the street and goes to the afterlife. (This isn’t a spoiler. It’s right in the trailer).

It's A Wonderful Afterlife In Pixar's Latest SOUL Trailer (VIDEO/IMAGES) – I Can't Unsee That Movie: film news and reviews by Jeff Huston

The animation in these sequences is absolutely stunning. Some of the most beautiful blending of 2D and CG I’ve ever seen. This is when I wish I could have seen Soul on the big screen because the images combined with the beautiful score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross took my breath away. Stunning.

But back to the story, Joe doesn’t want to die, so he escapes the Great Beyond and meets a pre-earth spirit called 22. She is convinced Earth is a big scam and that life isn’t worth even attempting. Joe then helps 22 to find her spark, all the while coming to realize what his spark is (which may or may not be jazz).

22 voiced by Tina Fey is supposed to be our entry-point for children, but I don’t think she is. Maybe I’m wrong and kids will love it but the film strikes me as too heady with too slow a pacing for children? I think they will be bored. Are kids interested in career goals? Do they wonder whether our passions are satisfying enough without relationships? Do kids think a lot about what makes for a fulfilling life?

But let’s assume kids don’t like Soul. Is that a problem? I honestly don’t know. Instead of Inside Out I’d compare this movie to Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow shorts or his feature It’s a Beautiful Day. I admire Hertzfeldt’s philosophical films but they aren’t very rewatchable and not something I love. I like to think of myself as a pretty introspective person, but I suppose I go to religion for this type of spiritual nourishment rather than an animated film. Your mileage may be better than mine, but I guess I like to be entertained a little more when I go to the movies.

There are a few attempts at humor like a repeated gag with pizza that are fun. There’s also a funny section with a cat but it’s mostly a very serious slow meditation on the meaning of life. I definitely recommend seeing it (I actually think Disney Plus is the perfect spot for it to be honest) but have a journal handy to write about your experience and ask yourself questions like these:

What is your spark? Has your passion led you to an empty life? Can the passion be a lie? Is a spark what you do or is it innately a part of who you are as a soul of divine worth? Does your career or passions matter at all?

I’m still pondering what the film is trying to say, which is a good thing I suppose. It just makes writing this review difficult!

In the end, I admire Pixar and Pete Docter for making Soul. It’s a bold, ambitious, challenging film that will appeal more to adults than kids. Whether that is a problem I’m still pondering. I do wish it had tried to entertain me a little bit more as well as make me think. However, the animation is stunning and the music gorgeous. I recommend it but just know what you are getting yourself into before watching it.

7 out of 10