Soul Movie Review: Pixar almost at its best with existential raging before life

Deep into Soul – the new Pixar movie about Disney + and Disney + Hotstar – protagonist Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) achieves what he has been waiting for all his life. These are literally his words, not mine, but Joe is not nearly as happy as he expected. It’s unexpected for soul too. Most films send heroes, once they have set a goal, on a journey where they encounter obstacles before reaching their destination with new values. But Soul goes one step further and questions everything. What is the trip worth? What should you be ready to accomplish the goal? And what if we approach the wrong goal? In other words, soul is interested in thinking about the meaning of life – the biggest question of all.

That’s especially ambitious for an animated film, but Pixar has never been one to shy away from a challenge. And it has the right man at the helm to do just that: Pete Docter, who previously directed from the inside to the outside (a similarly ambitious film about the importance of all emotions), Above (Combating death and dealing with grief) and Monster Inc. (Parenthood with the use of fear). Docter also wrote soul with Kemp Powers (also co-director) and Mike Jones. Soul has some pretty interesting things to say about the fine line between passion and consumption. And how society tends to associate passion with purpose, resulting in some people purposefully striving for a goal without caring about their surroundings, while others feel completely useless.

We are routinely told that we are worthless if we have no purpose in life. Soul tackles this thinking. It is said that there is more to life than chasing after your ambitions and that our goal is to help, inspire, and be a positive force others on their journey. From the opposite perspective, Soul notes that what people say affects us, influences us, and can limit us. We need to surround ourselves with those who empower us and don’t put us down, find people who believe in you and push you and don’t try to teach you how to live. As a late-game scene in Soul shows, words can go deep and keep us from living the life we ​​want and from being what we are supposed to be. It’s normal old life that’s the purpose and that’s the exciting part.

The 10 best movies of 2020 including soul

Soul begins with Joe, a middle school band teacher who isn’t happy with how his career has gone. That’s why he’s unhappy when he’s offered a permanent job at school. That was not how he imagined his life to be. Joe expected to become a touring jazz pianist, but his big break never came. One day his former student Curley (Questlove) calls him out of the blue to fill a last-minute position at a concert for a famous fictional jazz musician and saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). Joe impresses Dorothea with a surprise solo when he is swept up by the opportunity, and she asks him to return to rehearsals later that day. Delighted, Joe runs completely unsuspecting from his surroundings and falls into an open channel.

What would be a linchpin for a hospital becomes a keyword for Soul to tell a metaphysical story. Joe discovers he has arrived in The Great Beyond, the movie’s equivalent of heaven. There he panics and tries to get out – it’s a surprise no more people like Joe are panicking – but just manages to fall into The Great Before, which he says is the place where Souls get their personality before they arrive on earth a body. Joe is accidentally chosen as the mentor for soul number 22 (Tina Fey who wrote some of her own lines) previously mentored by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Nicolaus Copernicus and Marie Antoinette, and Carl Jung is still stuck in The Great Before. This makes for some great jokes about soul.

22 has no intention of living on earth, which in turn leads to a sullen attitude that wears it everywhere. But that changes after Joe reveals who he really is. Joe then, with the help of 22, makes a plan to return to Earth and his body that 22 is on board with because that would mean she can stay happily in The Great Before forever. 22 is more than happy to be stuck in the balance.

The Great Before is presented as a comedic place with wise but silly managers. Your name is Jerry (from Alice Braga and Richard Ayoade, among others) and you speak in very soothing voices. They are all very friendly and still enjoy talking to their colleagues from The Great Beyond, especially one Terry (Rachel House) who counts souls. After Joe escapes from The Great Beyond, Terry begins an investigation into who the missing soul is by looking alphabetically through all the souls that have ever existed. The joke is clearly aimed at red tape, but it’s shocking that The Great Beyond hasn’t come up with a better system than this.

From the soul to the wonder woman 1984, which is to be streamed in December

Soul Movie great before Soul Movie Review Pixar

22 and Joe alongside 3 Jerrys and Terry in Soul
Photo credit: Disney / Pixar

Soul takes the most minimalist approaches to animation of The Great Before, with the souls depicted as just blobs with no distinguishing features, their immortal caretakers (the Jerrys) only outlined, and with a calming palette of blue and green. The background rating of the film is adapted to the new environment. Jon Batiste’s foot-tapping jazz compositions and arrangements have disappeared and are being replaced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ otherworldly synthesized score that signals curiosity and mystery. During the transition to The Great Before, Soul takes a bold leap in its graphics as the lines on the screen pulsate to match the beats.

That boldness is achieved in the film’s almost entirely black voice, a first for a Pixar film. In addition to Fox, Questlove, Bassett and Ayoade, Soul also includes the voices of Phylicia Rashad (as Joe’s mother), Daveed Diggs (as Joe’s archenemy) and Donnell Rawlings (as Joe’s hairdresser). In addition, it is diverse. Braga mentioned above is Brazilian and House has Māori ancestry, while Native American star Wes Studi is also involved. Soul isn’t that diverse behind the scenes though (Powers co-director is Black, but everyone else is White). More importantly, it deals with black culture through its focus on jazz which is centered on the Black experience, but is also universal elsewhere as there is a mother-son relationship or the father-daughter bond between Joe and 22 influenced.

Where the film sometimes lacks is to deliver moment to moment joys and to be truly transcendent. That is, it delivers some existential wrangling, like “You can’t crush a soul here. This is what life on earth is for. “And although it doesn’t touch the heights of Docter’s Inside Out, it’s nonetheless a thoroughly entertaining romp that is ready to ask its characters (and therefore the audience) such big questions and improve the tried and tested narrative structure. Pixar has been too busy producing sequels and prequels (Toy Story 4, Incredibles 2, Cars 3, and Finding Dory) due to a mandate from Disney, and unfortunately, his original efforts have not been as good lately (Onward and The Good) Dinosaurs, although Coco was better) but with soul, Pixar is almost best.

Soul publishes Christmas Day on Disney + and Disney + Hotstar. It is 1:30 p.m. IST in India.

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