SOUL – A Review by Cynthia Flores
First off, this new animated film from Pixar is not for small children. That sounds odd to say because Pixar is known for its unique animated features for kids of all ages. I watched it with my 6-year-old niece, and she lost interest halfway through the film. Just like Disney’s’ 1940 film Fantasia that was beautiful to watch but more geared towards adult minds, and definitely not a movie for the children that loved Bambi. This new film Soul from co-directors Pete Docter and Kemp Powers is Pixar’s Fantasia. It’s best watched with a drink in one hand and intellectual friends at the ready to discuss the many layers of metaphysical and philosophical theories thrown up on the big screen.
Besides asking the question, what is it that makes you…YOU. At the (pardon the pun) heart of Soul is music. Jazz, to be precise. Its main character Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx), a middle school band teacher who has a passion for playing jazz, says it best as he’s talking to his students in band class.
“This is where it all started. This is the moment where I fell in love with jazz. Listen to that! See, the tune is just the starting point, y’get me? The music is just an excuse to bring out the YOU.”
Soul tells the story of Joe, who teaches as a substitute by day and gigs at jazz clubs at night. Joe is offered a full-time position at the school where he believes he would be settling for security over his passion for becoming a professional jazz pianist. And this is when he catches a break, a huge one. He’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with one of the greats. Joe feels like he has finally reached the top of the mountain he’s been climbing towards his whole life. He’s so excited that he doesn’t pay attention to where he is walking on the streets of New York City, a mistake that takes him to The Great Beyond. Yup, Joe is dying as he lays in a hospital bed. The only thing is Joe doesn’t want to go into that bright light at the end of the conveyor road his soul is on. So, he makes a run for it trying to get back to his body. Instead, he lands in The Great Before. A wonderful place where new souls get their personalities, quirks, and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life and play that gig, he teams up with a precocious soul named 22 (voice of Tina Fey). She has never understood the human experience’s appeal and can’t find that special spark to earn her way to Earth. She wants to stay in the Great Before forever. Joe is accidentally assigned as a mentor to 22 to help inspire her to find her spark and move on. He thinks that if he can help her, maybe he can make it back to Earth in time for his big gig. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he’s forced to face the answers to questions he never thought of asking about his own life. About his worth and reason for being alive.
When the lead director/writer Pete Docter was asked what inspired the idea of Soul, he is quoted as saying the following. “It started with my son—he’s 23 now—but the instant he was born, he already had a personality,” says Docter. “Where did that come from? I thought your personality developed through your interaction with the world. And yet, it was pretty clear that we’re all born with a very unique, specific sense of who we are.” He goes on to say, “In our story, everyone is born with a soul, and those souls don’t just show up unprepared, they’re trained and given personality and interests.”
Soul is the kind of movie I want to watch a few times to catch all the jokes hidden in the animation and backgrounds. It feels like they took The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman and mixed it with several religious beliefs in the great beyond. Putting them all together in a blender and hitting the hi button. Creating an odd but tasty looking tale of life beyond what we have here on Earth.
I give Soul a 3.5-star rating. If you don’t like jazz and philosophy, then you won’t like this film. If you do, then sit back and enjoy this trippy ride.
Directors: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
Written by: Pete Docter, Mike Jones, Kemp Powers
Selig Rating: 3.5 Stars
Running Time: 1hr 40min
Wide Release: In Theaters and Disney Plus December 25th
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.