SOUL*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens in a middle school where music teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is instructing an uninterested and untalented class. The only exception appears to be a trombone-playing girl named Connie (Cora Champommier), who does her own solo but seems to feel embarrassed afterward. Even after Joe gives an impassioned speech about how he first became enamored with jazz music, the students seem unimpressed. He is then called out of class by Principal Arroyo (Jeannie Tirado), who offers Joe a full-time band teaching job. Although Joe is thankful, he has higher aspirations.
Joe tells his mother, a seamstress named Libba (Phylicia Rashad). She is more proud of him getting this job than she is of him pursuing a career as a jazz musician, thinking it is a waste of time. Joe then gets a phone call from a former student named Curley (Questlove), who tells him that he is playing in a band with famous jazz musician Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), whom Joe admires. Curley says there is an opening for a piano player if he is interested, and Joe shows up immediately. During the set, Joe starts off a bit shaky but soon starts to wow the rest of the band by improvising the notes and playing a soulful tune. Dorothea is impressed and tells Joe to show up for soundcheck later that night. Joe is elated at having scored a dream gig. He is so excited that he does not see where he is going and ends up falling down a manhole.
Joe’s soul appears down a dark staircase heading toward a bright light. He is informed by other souls that they are headed to the Great Beyond now that their time on Earth is done. Joe refuses to accept his death after getting the shot of his life, so he tries running down the staircase, but more and more souls start coming up. He eventually pushes himself through the wall surrounding the stairs, and he falls into a realm called The Great Before. He meets a counselor named Jerry A (Alice Braga), who takes him on a tour of the place where other souls who haven’t been given a life yet are brought before they can go to Earth. Those who are ready can jump down a hole that will take them to their Earth bodies. Joe attempts to jump down the hole but keeps getting sent back up. He learns from Jerry A that if he does not want to go to the Great Beyond, he can take a position as a mentor to other souls so that they can earn their Earth Pass and gain a life. Meanwhile, a soul counter named Terry (Rachel House) notices the count to the Great Beyond is off.
Joe attends a You Seminar for the young souls where they may get personalities before getting the Earth Pass. Jerry B (Richard Ayoade) pairs Joe, who is passing off as a renowned psychologist, with 22 (Tina Fey), a rebellious soul who has gone through many famous mentors (including Abe Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Copernicus, Mother Teresa, etc) but has never found a desire to get a life on earth.
22 follows Joe begrudgingly through the life of the doctor he is pretending to be, until 22 shows Joe that he can pull up images of his own life. While seeing flashbacks, Joe feels as though he accomplished nothing in his life, and this is why he feels he has to get back to his body and make something of himself. The two then resolve to get 22’s Earth Pass to activate so that she can give it to Joe for him to return to Earth, and so she won’t have to get a life. To do this, Joe needs to help 22 find her “spark” that will activate the pass. Joe tries everything he can think of to see if it will inspire 22, but nothing impresses her.
Before the Jerrys can attempt to throw Joe back toward the Great Beyond, 22 tells them they are getting close to finding her purpose for life. She instead takes Joe to a place called “The Zone”, a realm between the physical and spiritual where artists, musicians, or athletes appear when they are inspired and impassioned. 22 only goes there to mess with people (such as the New York Knicks). They also find Lost Souls, the kinds of souls who never found a purpose and became consumed with negative thoughts. Joe and 22 are found by Moonwind (Graham Norton), a soul who lives as a man on Earth who works as a sign twirler. He guides lost souls to their bodies and brings Joe to his body, which is lying in a coma in the hospital. As Joe prepares to jump back in, he accidentally pulls 22 down with him and they both fall down the soul hole.
Joe awakens to find himself back on Earth…only it is in the body of a therapy cat called Mr. Mittens. 22 is now inside Joe’s body. The two freak out, but Joe talks to 22 so that she will not make him look crazy. She is upset to be in a human body, but they resolve to work together to get out of this situation. They try to find Moonwind’s location that he had mentioned, which is in the middle of Manhattan, but when they get out there, 22 is overwhelmed by life and people. She hides until Joe goes to swipe a slice of pizza and give her her first taste of food. 22 decides that she loves pizza, and Joe also swipes her a gyro. They eventually find Moonwind at his job, where he tells them to meet at a specific location at 6:30 later that day for Joe to return to his body. While trying to get home, Joe is horrified when Dorothea and Curley see his body in a hospital gown wandering the streets. They hop in a cab and make it back home before anything else happens.
When Joe and 22 get back to his apartment, he gets a call from Curley saying that Dorothea freaked out upon seeing him and gave the gig to another guy. Joe thinks he still has a chance to redeem himself if he shows up to the gig anyway, but he was to look presentable. They are then interrupted when Connie goes to Joe’s apartment to tell him she wants to quit band. 22, speaking as Joe, talks to her on a level she can understand, and although she seems to encourage Connie to quit, the girl changes her mind after playing a trombone piece that she had been working on. 22 feels surprised at having been able to influence someone else.
Joe tries to help 22 get ready by cutting the hair on his own head, but he slips and cuts down the middle of his hair before the electric razor breaks. Joe then tells 22 to go to his local barber, Dez (Donnell Rawlings). There, they encounter Joe’s rival Paul (Daveed Diggs), who makes snide comments toward Joe. 22, still speaking for him, talks to Dez and the other clients about her thoughts on life and how far it has taken her to this point. Everyone is impressed by her thoughts, and she even manages to zing Paul when he makes another snobbish comment. After the cut, 22 goes to let Paul know there are no hard feelings. Terry then appears after having found out Joe was the lost soul she was looking for. She accidentally snags Paul but returns his soul to his body, but still makes him uncomfortable by trying to explain herself.
22 rips Joe’s pants, and with no time to find a tailor, Joe realizes they have to go to Libba, who will not be happy to learn that he is taking a gig. They ride the subway, where 22 experiences an angry New Yorker yelling at her. When he gets to the shop, he finds out from Libba’s coworkers that she already knows about the job. Joe and 22 go to speak to her, which leads to Joe blurting out (and 22 repeatings) that Libba never supported Joe in his ambitions. After a heartfelt discussion, Libba says she has always supported Joe even if she thought his dreams were out of reach. She decides to support the gig, and she gives Joe his father’s old suit.
Joe and 22 stop by to see Moonwind so he can return Joe to his body, but 22 has realized that she has enjoyed life in the short time that she has had a body. Even the negative experiences like on the subway made her feel more exhilarated than she has ever felt. She refuses to give up Joe’s body, leading him to have to chase her down into the subway. Terry catches them through one of her traps, sending them back to the Great Before. The Jerrys then see that 22’s Earth Pass has been filled since she found her spark, but Joe argues that it doesn’t count because she did all that through his body. Hurt by his words, she throws the Pass at him and retreats. Joe asks Jerry B why she can’t have her own body if she found her purpose. Jerry B explains that finding her spark wasn’t finding her purpose, but just the reason for her and other souls to want to live. Joe takes the Pass and makes it back to his body in time (and Mr. Mittens reunites with his owner).
Joe goes to Dorothea’s show, and despite her apprehension toward him, she gives him another chance, and Joe manages to play a stunning performance with the band. When Dorothea offers him a chance to go on tour with them, Joe admits that he doesn’t feel the way he expected to feel after all that. She leaves him with some parting words of advice to let him think on.
Joe returns to his apartment feeling bad about what happened with 22. As he plays music to himself, he returns to The Zone and reunites with Moonwind. He helps Joe get back to the Great Before, only to find that 22 has quickly turned into a monstrous Lost Soul. Joe tries to reach out to her, only to be trapped in her cloud of negativity. He finds 22 crying alone as she remembers all her past mentors, including Joe, telling her that she will never find her purpose. Joe feels remorse for what he did and he approaches her. Joe then takes a leaf that 22 had been mesmerized by when she was in his body, as it is a small but memorable thing for her that drove her desire to live. The darkness disappears from around her.
Joe guides 22 to the Earth portal and gives her back her badge. He goes as far as he can with her as they say goodbye so that she can finally have her own body. Joe then prepares to head to the Great Beyond, until Jerry A stops him and says that the Jerrys were all impressed with Joe’s actions and the fact that he was the one who got 22 to want to live. They have decided to allow Joe to return to his body, and they will even keep it a secret from Terry by not letting her know the count is off and making her believe it’s fine. Joe then promises to really live his life to the fullest.
In New York City, Joe Gardner is an aspiring jazz musician currently working as a band teacher. When a dream gig finally lands his way, Joe accidentally falls down a manhole and has his soul separated from his body. In order to get back and avoid heading to the Great Beyond, Joe poses as a mentor to a rebellious soul called 22, who refuses to get a life like the rest of the souls. Joe hopes to use 22's Earth Pass to get back to his body.
Despite trying to find something that 22 is passionate about, Joe finds it hopeless when she remains uninterested. 22 then takes Joe to a soul guide called Moonwind, as he is alive on Earth, but his soul passes through "The Zone" where impassioned people on Earth have their souls connect between the physical and spiritual realms. Joe finds his body but accidentally brings 22 to Earth with him, leading her to go inside his body while he is stuck in a therapy cat called Mr. Mittens. While Joe tries to get Moonwind to put him back, 22 starts to experience life through Joe's eyes and finds beauty in the little things.
When Moonwind prepares to return Joe to normal, 22 refuses to give up his body. They are sent back to the Great Beyond by a determined soul counter named Terry who noticed that the soul count was off. Although 22's Earth Pass badge has been filled out, Joe says it doesn't count because she did everything through his body. Hurt, she gives him the Pass to return to Earth. Although he plays his gig, he doesn't feel as fulfilled as he thought he would. He returns to the Great Before by passing through The Zone and goes to find 22, who has become a Lost Soul. After getting through to her, Joe helps her go to Earth so that she may have a body of her own.
As Joe prepares to go to the Great Beyond, one of the soul guides, Jerry A, notes that she and the other Jerrys were impressed by Joe's actions and the fact that he got 22 to want to live. They grant him his body back, and Joe promises to live his life to the fullest.