Much of the millennial generation nurses a reverence for Pixar Studios because of the importance of its first 11 films. Since Cars 2 broke that pristine record, it has been spotty.
There have been highs like Coco, worthy of the top spot on many lists of Pixar’s best. There have been lows like The Good Dinosaur, which curiously conjured worldwide mass amnesia. Audiences everywhere forgot the entire preceding 1 hour and 40 minutes of their life, ending the very microsecond their foot hit the ground outside of the theater.
Pixar’s latest movie, Soul, is available now on Disney+ and, I’m happy to report, we have another good – possibly memorable – Pixar movie. Soul follows Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a music teacher who feels like he never got his chance in music or in life – until he does. He plays piano privately for one of his jazz idols and impresses her enough that he’s offered to play a show with her band that evening.
With a spring in his step, he’s off to get ready for the gig. Then he dies.
In any other movie, the protagonist dying would be a spoiler, but it really is just the elevator pitch for this movie – it happens at the 50 second mark of the first trailer.
After that, the movie happens, following Joe, now only as a soul, as he tries to understand what his life meant. Thematically, I would compare Soul to It’s a Wonderful Life.
The meaning of a life – classic kid’s movie stuff!
The themes of Soul, like the rest of Pixar’s best, carry depth that can impact an audience of any age.
That’s the biggest piece of praise I offer this film: it is a piece of art that seeks to examine the human condition and say something important about it.
That’s not the only praise though. Pixar’s animation is amazing. The lighting is not only fully realistic, it’s constantly beautiful. At one point, I paused the film and couldn’t discern the still image from a real – and very nice – photograph.
Though once any character is on screen one can see that Pixar still allows their characters the same overly expressive animations they’ve always had.
Beyond lighting and other technical things, the designs of the worlds and the characters in this movie all delight. New York is a very pretty recreation of New York, but everything after Joe’s life is vivid and wild and colorful fun.
Allow me to break from describing the content of the film to describe its impact on a single viewer – not myself, but someone I talk movies with often.
Upon opening a discussion about Soul, my friend told me they had been going through a tough time and feeling lost in life – much like Joe. My friend worried about their life's missing purpose, like Joe’s companion throughout the film (a soul named “22”).
So as to avoid possible spoilers, I won’t go any further into this discussion I had, but I got to see the impact a movie can have on a person. It was awesome – and I don’t type that lightly.
Soul is animated, released by Disney, and I think kids everywhere will enjoy watching it. But it can speak to adult audiences just as well, if not even more deeply. Even if it doesn’t move you as it did my friend, it’s still an impressively animated and worthwhile experience.
It drags a bit in the middle and perhaps five minutes could have been cut from the film. Not every movie can be perfect! But I still really liked this one.
I give Soul an A.