Movie Review: Disney-Pixar’s SOUL
Following his exploration of human emotions in the Oscar-winning Inside Out, Pete Doctor returns to the director’s chair for Disney-Pixar’s latest animated triumph – Soul.
The film sees middle school substitute band teach Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) finally getting his big break to play with one of his jazz idols – Dorathea Williams (Angela Bassett) – but only after being offered stability of a full-time job teaching. Much to the dismay of his mother (Phylicia Rashad), Joe auditions for the gig and lands it when he shows how talented of a musician he is. Unfortunately for Joe, he is so excited that he doesn’t pay attention to where he is going – and ends up meeting an early demise as he falls into an open manhole.
This is a good point to stop and ask the question, are these Pixar movies actually “kids movies” anymore? While there is nothing terribly offensive, and kids are sure to be enamored with the gorgeous visuals, they have been dealing with more and more serious subject matter. Although I’d argue that films like Inside Out and Soul are fantastic ways to help children understand these very real parts of life. So just keep in mind as a parent, while these topics are handled very well, they are primed to open the door for many questions. Just be sure you are ready to answer them.
On his way up the escalator to “The Great Beyond,” Joe decides that it isn’t his time to go – having finally gotten the big break he’s been waiting for his entire life. So he escapes his fate, and ends up landing in “The Great Before,” where new souls prepare to match with their human bodies on Earth. There he meets the counselors guiding the young souls, voiced by Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Wes Studi, Fortune Feimster, and Zenobia Shroff – along with Terry the accountant (Rachel House) who is not happy about their count being off and makes it a goal to track down the anomaly.
Joe devises a plan to get back to his body when he is tasked to mentor Number 22 (Tina Fey), who is still not ready to match with a body after being guided by many of the greats. Since she doesn’t want to go to Earth anyway, Joe strikes a deal to get her Earth Pass and get back to his body before his big gig. What follows is a fun and heartfelt adventure where the two of them find their purpose along the way.
As previously mentioned, the computer animation in Soul is stunning. Pixar is known for continually improving their techniques and building upon each subsequent feature. This film is no different, as many of the scenes are jaw-droppingly beautiful. The New York that the animators meticulously crafted is often photo-realistic, and mesmerizing to take in. And all of the after-life sequences are extremely colorful and creative, taking the audience on a wonderous exploration of what might be waiting for us.
The voice cast is terrific, with both Foxx and Fey turning in great performances. The two of them have great chemistry, and are a lot of fun to watch act off one another. They also get some very emotional scenes to work with, and make you really care about the characters. There are things that audiences are sure to be able to relate with in each of them, and they tap into that beautifully.
Graham Norton, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove, and Daveed Diggs all make for fun additions to the cast.
Soul makes for the perfect follow-up to Inside Out, and director Pete Doctor along with his co-director Kemp Powers have delivered the perfect one-two punch with their latest addition. After exploring human emotions, the new film asks one of the biggest questions – what is there after we are gone? The answer they have crafted is an unforgettable one, with plenty of exciting action and a touching journey from start to finish.