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Jamie Foxx takes command of the keys — and takes jazz back from Ryan Gosling — in Pixar's 'Soul' (exclusive clip)

Kevin Polowy
·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·2 min read
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Pixar’s latest film, Soul, presents an illuminating meditation on mortality, purpose and the meaning of life, one of the animation giant’s deepest films since Inside Out explored the inner workings of the mind.

The new animated feature is also a love letter to jazz music, with Jamie Foxx playing a unfulfilled middle-school music teacher and moonlighting pianist whose dreams of lighting up New York City clubs are dashed when he falls down a manhole and embarks on an out-of-body odyssey. (Watch Foxx’s Joe Gardner work the keys in an exclusive clip from the film above.)

Soul is the highest profile movie to prominently feature America’s original art form since 2016’s almost-Best Picture-winning La La Land. That film was simultaneously adored for its musical numbers and skewered for its “white jazz narrative” that became a meme before star Ryan Gosling even mocked himself while hosting Saturday Night Live.

Is Soul, then, taking jazz back from Ryan Gosling?

“We talked about that,” admitted producer Dana Murray in a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment.

Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) in Pixar's "Soul"
Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) in Soul. (Photo: Pixar)

“It’s pretty pivotal in just jiving thematically with the film,” said Pete Docter, the longtime Pixar pro and new chief creative officer who co-directed the film with Kemp Powers, of jazz’s role in the film. “You’re given a tune, and your job as a musician and turn it into something of value. That just seemed thematically what we were trying to say with the film. So it just had a profound influence on the storytelling as well as the filmmaking.”

“The idea that you can’t control what you’re given, but you can control what you do with it,” agreed Powers, a former jazz critic. “And that’s the essence of jazz, and kind of the essence of the lessons learned in this film.”

Foxx, the Oscar-winning Ray actor who moonlights as an R&B singer with hits that include “Blame It” and “Gold Digger,” says the film also digs into some of his own musical roots.

“People don’t know that background on me, but I’ve played jazz before. I played jazz in school, college,” Foxx told us, adding that if you dig deep enough on his Instagram page you’ll find videos of him on the keys in real life. “Jazz is definitely a part of everything that I’ve done.”

Soul premieres Christmas Day on Disney+.

Watch the trailer:

Read more on Yahoo Entertainment: