Here’s an animated jazz film that asks the question, “What is it that makes you special? Jamie Fox voices a New York City band teacher, Joe Gardner, who will finally follow his dream of playing gigs in a band—although suddenly his life could be over before he makes his dream come true.
Joe’s a grown man still living with his mom (Phylicia Rashad) and having a hard time making it on his own. His luck changes when he hears that Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), a great saxophone player, needs a piano player for her jazz quartet, and he lucks out by scoring an audition.
The tricky part of the movie for kids may be the next scenes when Joe walks across the street and falls straight down a maintenance hole—he doesn’t die, although his body turns translucent, and he begins to ascend upward toward a shining light. It becomes known that he’s going toward “The Great Beyond.” Although he’s marooned in “The Great Before,” a place where personalities/souls are assembled and dispersed to those who are about to be born. This realm of sorts is a way station run by ghostly creatures, many of whom are called “Jerry.” Joe is determined to find his way out. In a hysterical role, Tina Fey voices an irritated and pessimistic infant soul named, No. 22. She is Joe’s ticket out.
The music enriches the gorgeously drawn visuals. “Born to Play” is the name of one of the movie’s many songs composed, arranged, and performed by real-life musician Jon Batiste. He’s one of the animated film’s musical consultants in addition to Herbie Hancock, Daveed Diggs, and Questlove. The beats are free-flowing, with scenes of dream-like melodies. A phantasmagoric tone,— one in which is so strange or different, it doesn’t appear real. It’s the fine line between reality (earth) and the near heaven sequences. The dreamy soft translucent blobs represent an unformed being. Directed by Peter Docter and co-directed by Kemp Powers; together the love of jazz is explored along with the notion of following your dreams.
Utilizing Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey’s push-pull duo works as his ambitious, optimistic, and vulnerable energy is catchy. At the same time, 22’s ambivalence and pessimism form a tender bond that works.
I’m all in four stars out of four; here’s a film that’s perfect for the entire family. Similar in tone to Disney’s “Inside Out,” kids and adults are shown that through our differences, we shine as people and that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
An excellent award-worthy film. Streaming now on Disney +
Thanks again for listening in tonight; this is Sarah Knight Adamson for Sarah’s Backstage Pass; see you next week.
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