Soul movie review

Pixar has a new film. That’s probably all the hook some viewers need. For others, the fact that Soul marks Pixar’s first animated film with a black lead is a major selling point especially in 2020. Soul has the style, rhythm and overall pitch perfect Pixar style to result in another winner for the studio.

Joe (Jamie Foxx, Project Power) is a part-time high school music teacher who hasn’t given up on his dream of becoming part of a jazz ensemble. But just when his big break of touring with saxophonist Dorothea (Angela Bassett, Avengers: Endgame) is on the verge of coming true, Joe falls into a terrible predicament clinging to life.

While he’s in a hospital bed, his soul is traveling to the beyond where souls get their personalities imprinted under the supervision of abstract characters that are all named Jerry (Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade).

soul review - after life

Figuring this gig is better than going to the next step into the great unknown, Joe agrees to mentor 22 (Tina Fey), a soul that has little interest in going to Earth to pursue her passion. A mishap sends them back to Earth in roles they didn’t expect and Joe begins a desperate attempt to make his dream a reality no matter the obstacles.

Director/co-writers Pete Docter (Inside Out) and Kemp Powers (Star Trek: Discovery) have a clever premise. They approach Soul with some unique real world moments mixed with metaphysical and spiritual questions of purpose and self.

The waiting area is a slow moving conveyor while the staging area feels like something workshopped for an app complete with a somewhat sterile, matter of fact feel to it.

soul review - dez and joe

As usual, the animation is stellar with some gorgeous effects. Docter and Powers don’t stick to traditional modern animation techniques and great creative with abstract designs.

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It’s not hard to envision the think pieces dissecting the script, co-written by Mike Jones, from deep thinkers. There’s some unintended connections to Get Out that could ring out for some viewers and there’s the continuing trend with black lead characters in animated films.

soul review - joe

Soul seemed like it was following the typical bait and switch cliché of animated films with black leads like Spies in Disguise and The Princess and The Frog.

You know the drill. The black lead is heavily promoted only to get turned into an animal early on. Soul’s blue energy orb resembling Joe raised some eyebrows. And the pattern pops up in a more obvious fashion later on.

soul review - 22 and joe

I felt more lenient in this instance as Joe, the black main character, didn’t disappear from the screen for lengthy portions of the film. This is important in the second act as Joe takes 22 on a tour of the city where she takes in all the sights, sounds and feelings with city life.

To the filmmakers’ credit, Soul isn’t a color blind animated film. The film captures the flavor of New York while nailing specific tones of black experiences like the communal feel of a barbershop and family pressures. These scenes are easily some of Soul’s richest and most rewarding scenes.

The score by John Baptiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is also excellent and is the kind you’d leave on in the background just to hear it play.

Soul might not be playing all the same notes of Inside Out, but it is working off a similar playlist. Instead of emotions, Soul explores passion and purpose. Pixar films always strike the right mark of entertaining children and adults on different levels and Soul might hit a little differently for adults this time.

soul review - joe and dorothea

Younger viewers will love the slapstick physical comedy and body swaps, but adults may find the questions of purpose far more substantial.

A lot of Pixar films provide adults a whimsical look at life they’ve already experienced. Soul suggests the future is still ahead for those willing to embrace it.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Photo Credit: Disney

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