Everybody has a soul. Joe Gardner is about to find his.
Soul is a 2020 animated comedy film directed by Pete Docter, written by Pete Docter, Mike Jones, and Kemp Powers, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios. The film stars Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature, Best Original Score, and Best Sound, winning the first two.
"What would you want to be known for on Earth?" -Joe Gardner
Joe Gardner is a middle school band teacher that dreams of getting in a jazz band. When that opportunity presents itself, Joe gets so excited that he doesn't notice the well right in front of him. When Joe falls in and dies, he refuses to go to the realm known as "The Great Beyond". While hiding from the soul counselors, Joe meets a rogue soul named 22. Together, the duo tries to make their way back to Joe's body and learn some important lessons along the way.
I think that this is the best animation I've ever seen in a Pixar movie. The animation was absolutely breathtaking. Every scene was beautifully animated. I thought that the souls in the soul world looked really good. The rest of the soul world looked amazing. There were a bunch of dimensions and objects that were animated in different ways. Some had these strangely amazing black and white textures that were so cool. In the real world, you see the sophisticated animation that is required to show the characters playing music. I can't imagine how hard it'd be to animate people's fingers playing piano. It is near-perfectly animated, making it a joyful experience to watch even if you don't like the rest of the film.
The music is also fabulous. The movie is about jazz, so naturally, we get a lot of jazz. It comes in at the perfect moments and there are some beautifully poignant moments where music is vital. Every sound that comes in in the background from the score is soothing to the audience's ears.
I also thought that the world building for the soul world was great. It really fleshed out the place and made it really cool. It was frustrating that we didn't spend a lot of time with the souls, but when we were, I felt like I understood that world better than the real one. They did a really great job of making sure that the audience knew all about the soul world, and that made me like the film much more.
I think that 22's character arc is great. She goes through a lot of literal change and it makes for a very sentimental and powerful story. I think that, while Soul has a weak story, 22's arc is a highlight in the story. I think that she is the best character in the movie, and her giddy and slightly childish demeanor adds to the interest of her arc.
The film also conveys a pretty powerful message. It really makes the audience understand matters of life and death better, and it makes you want to savor the rest of your time on Earth. Now, that may seem grim and haunting, but it really isn't in the context of the film. It really makes the audience think, and I like it when Pixar does that.
I do have to admit; I was very disappointed by this film. I really expected much better from this movie and I wanted it to better, but it wasn't. There were a couple of really big problems that I had with this film, so let's check it out.
The biggest problem with the film is that it doesn't have one storyline. It almost feels like an anthology film because of that. There are four separate conflicts, climaxes, and resolutions inside of the film. That made the experience of watching it distasteful and frustrating. There are too many things that happen. Any of these stories could've been the plot of the movie if they had only given it a little bit more time. There isn't even one overarching plot line that pays off at the end of the film.
Piggybacking off of that, the movie just isn't that interesting. There isn't enough to keep the audience invested. All of the plot lines feel paper thin. They can all be summarized in one sentence. And since the only focus of these four different sections of the movie is the main plot of that section, there aren't any subplots. You are stuck in these thin stories that don't provide much for the audience. It is tiring and really disappointing. Pixar, who is known for making these incredible original stories, really swung and missed on this one.
Along with that, there are some strangely iffy parts in the film. I won't spoil anything, but for a movie that seems like it should be representing black people in this hard time, there are some relatively touchy parts. The film is directed by a white man and co-written by two white men and a black man. I don't know how okay audiences will be with some of these strange parts, but I was very confused when these specific parts happened.
The film can also feel like a little bit of a re-iteration of both Inside Out, Coco, and Freaky Friday. There are recurring themes from both of them, and I thought that that was also really weird. Like I said before, Pixar is known for these great original stories, but this one doesn't feel entirely original. Most of these movies can take inspiration from other Disney and Pixar works, but there are some direct messages that are taken from those films that I mentioned.
Without spoiling anything again, there are also some specific plot beats that are way too confusing or way too weird. This is where the experimental parts of Soul emerge, and I do not think that they work all too well. There is something weird for the middle part of the movie that has to do with a cat, and it is really strange. They also have some philosophical elements that they rely on, and I don't think that they work too well. It got a little too mystic and too philosophical for its own good.
Overall, I think that the movie valued themes and messages over actual story. That was a problem, and I was very frustrated by it. I can appreciate that Pixar tried to do this movie, but I really don't understand why it is getting rave reviews with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. The experiment of this one, for me, did not pay off.
Beautiful animation and a good character arc cannot save the thin storytelling and over reliance on philosophies and psychology that this film conveys.
I will give it a Sour rating. Age range is 6+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
Fun Factor: 6/10
Directed by Pete Docter
Rated PG for some disturbing themes and thematic elements
Released on December 25, 2020
1 hour and 41 minutes
Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner
Tina Fey as 22
Graham Norton as Moonwind
Rachel House as Terry
Alice Braga as Jerry
Richard Ayoade as Jerry
Phylicia Rashad as Libba Gardner
Questlove as Curley
Donnell Rawlings as Dez
Angela Bassett as Dorothea Williams
Daveed Diggs as Paul