“Soul,” directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers, is an animated dramedy which most notably features the voices of Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner and Tina Fey as 22. Docter previously directed other Pixar movies, such as “Inside Out,” “Up,” and “Monsters Inc.”
The film was released as a Disney+ original film Dec. 25 due to COVID-19’s impact on theatrical releases. It became the first feature-length film from Pixar not to be released in theaters world-wide.
Shortly after landing a once-in-a-lifetime jazz pianist gig, Joe, a middle school band teacher, finds himself on a stairway to the afterlife after falling into a manhole. Unwilling to die, he escapes, but ends up in the “Great Before,” where soul counselors prepare unborn souls for life.
After being mistaken for a soul counselor, Joe is assigned to train 22 – a soul who sees no point in living on Earth. Joe then proceeds to assist 22 in finding a passion, so she can complete her badge by finding her “spark.”
Unlike most animated films, the comedy was natural, rather than forced. I found myself laughing out loud on multiple occasions. Rather than focusing on cheap slapstick gags, the comedy relied on witty dialogue and hilarious brief cutaways.
Pixar is known for its outstanding animation, and this film is certainly no different. The buttery smooth movement of the characters and facial designs were something to behold. And the city scenery was complete and utter eye candy – the colors were vivid and the textures were incredibly detailed.
Along with the stellar animation and comedy, the film was surprisingly deep and geared toward adults. While most Pixar films do have instances of mature thematic elements, “Soul” goes a few steps further by exploring the theme of existentialism throughout the entire movie, without exerting kid-friendly gags.
The subject matter was never dealt with in a light-hearted manner and the tone of the film was dramatic for the most part.
Although the film never went into PG-13 rated territory, it was not aimed at kids. For much of the movie, the characters contemplated the meaning of life and their purpose on earth. There was only one sequence – where 22 slaps Joe repeatedly in the face – when I felt the film relied on slapstick violence, rather than profound humor.
Much like Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the PG-rating wasn’t representative of the audience’s age. In fact, many kids will most likely be bored out of their minds for a huge portion of the film. Despite being animated, the film’s characters only spend time in two locations throughout the entire runtime.
Although there were not many characters in the film, each voice actor voiced their character exceptionally well. In particular, Foxx and Fey’s voice acting was frankly some of the best I’ve ever heard in any animated show or movie. They each had a wide variety to their voices, which brought the characters to life.
Even though the film was held back with a PG-rating, it is more profound than most movies I’ve seen. Both Foxx and Fey’s characters were fully fleshed out and the conversations about life they had were uncompromising and intelligent. In a way, their interactions made me forget I was watching an animated movie – the dialogue was incredibly wholehearted.
Although the film is flawless, I do wish it was marketed differently. After all, the trailers made the film out to be the typical run-of-the-mill animated movie with quirky characters and colorful settings. While I do understand Disney was trying to make revenue by marketing to children, it is simply misleading.
Death and the existence of life are intense and are not always age-appropriate subjects to tackle in a film. But thanks to Pixar’s exceptionally talented writing and directing staff, they were able to do the impossible – imply that death is not the end, but rather the beginning of life.
“Soul” is a film not to be missed. Pixar has matured with its audience and is striving to not rehash the same storyline repeatedly.
Even though the movie flew by quickly, I was left satisfied in the end. Adult-targeted animation is a stepping-stone for the film industry, and I fully support it.