“Soul” is an amazing film that brings hope in the horrid storm that is 2020. This isn’t my favorite Pixar film but it is a favorite film and one I’d highly recommend. This film tackles what it means to be alive and presents it in the form of Pixar’s beautiful animation and the fantastic soundtrack by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor. Seriously, without going into SPOILERS I highly recommend the film.
The film was directed by Pete Docter who co-wrote the film with Mike Jones and Kemp Powers.
The film follows Joe (Jamie Foxx) a music teacher who has the chance for his dream gig when his soul is separated from his body in an accident. From here he seeks a way back as rebellious Soul 22 (Tina Fey) helps him along the way.
The Animation – Pixar continues to show why they are some of the best animators around. In this we see the details have improved with the lighting in a jazz club at one point, contrast of light in the Beyond and the details of emotion in the eyes and face. This is easily one of their most beautiful looking films.
The Soundtrack – Reznor and Ross give us an intense electric soundtrack in moments of character isolation and also the kinetic living feel of jazz when Joe is going about his daily life and events are happening on Earth. It provides a nice contrast between moods and the way they capture life and realization is illustrated perfectly in the film.
Soul 22 – Tina Fey’s Soul 22 has had a whole bunch of soul mentors through history trying to help her find the reason to live and join in Earth and over the course of the film we see that their rejection of her leads to her becoming lost, especially after they experience life in Joe’s body for a while. This is handled well as lost souls are defined by obsession and guilt and it is in Joe’s apology for joining those voices she finally takes that leap to join life. 22 has a great arc. They are also the comedic relief through the film.
Joe and his Relationships – Joe and his relationships are the core of the film besides Joe and 22 discovering what it means to live. In this we see Joe heal the rift between himself and his mom (she didn’t want him to do gigs because his dad had trouble bringing money in and it was hard for them), the student who grew up and helped him land the dream gig and his barber and students. Each of these relationships reveal a facet of Joe and what motivates him and gives him reason for being and him seeing his life through another’s eyes helps him see the things he was missing. It is beautifully done and I’m glad he gets a second chance at life at the end.
A Life Lived is More Than Inspiration – One of the running themes is souls before going to Earth need to establish personalities and a final spark. The soul mentors see this as a passion but it is more than that. It is in noticing and experiencing life. The reason is in walking and being part of the world and the relationships in it. This premise is beautifully explored and handled so well.
Afterlife Rules and Leadership – We got Soul Counselors keeping track of souls going to the Beyond and preparing new souls to enter the world. They are meant as abstract beings but just came off as bureaucrats, which was a shame as their fluid abstract designs showed they could have been presented as so much more.
The Mystics – The mystics function as a plot device as they help 22 and Joe find a way back into the world through the sea of Lost Souls. The reason I didn’t like this is none of the folks were dead and the mechanics made even less sense than how new souls become ready to enter the world. They were also primarily comedic relief but weren’t funny, so that didn’t work. Luckily their role is small (but important) so they aren’t around for a long time.
This was one of the 2 films I had to see before I do my “Top 5 Films of 2020” and even though I don’t think this one will make it I still highly recommend it for all the reasons listed above. This film rises to some of the highest of emotional beats and succeeds. It is really only in afterlife rules and mechanics where it doesn’t work nearly as well as “Inside Out.” Seriously, check this film out though. It is easily the best animated film that came out this year.
Final Score: 9.4 / 10