Jamie Foxx is your average “Joe” in this emotionally charged Pixar film.
Pixar has always been good at crafting animated films that anyone can watch but they’re most well known for making children’s films and, while watching “Soul,” I realized that this one felt different. It’s not just for kids, the themes in this film are more mature and complicated than ever. It’s more so for kids who are at a tender age where they start asking questions like “who am I?” and “what is my purpose in life?” “Soul” expertly explores these themes and suggests that some questions are better left unanswered.
Jazz teacher Joe Gardener — played by Jamie Foxx — lives a boring life. His ultimate dream is to one day become a piano player in a jazz band and after acing an audition that he’s been waiting for his entire life, it looks like things are finally starting to look up.
Except for one thing. Joe is dead. After celebrating his excitement about getting the position, he falls down an open manhole and lands himself in a coma. He is destined to go into the great beyond as his soul travels to the land between the living and the dead. However, Joe has other plans to cheat death.
He finds himself in a place where young souls go before they are born into a human vessel and ends up in a program mentoring the most infamous young soul, 22, played by Tina Fey. This starts Joe’s journey of trying to get back to Earth and teaching 22 valuable life lessons along the way.
The film follows a very similar formula that viewers of Pixar films are accustomed to but this time with a few new gags and plot devices in place. For some, you will probably know exactly what will happen and it’s all of the matter of how each character will get from one narrative point to the next.
Directed by Pete Docter and animated by Disney Pixar, the animation and overall look of the film is phenomenal. It has a distinct art style that keeps it out of the uncanny valley but still manages to blend in realism. There are moments where it looks like the animators just plopped the CGI characters into realistic looking settings.
However, the visuals in the realm between the living and the dead are rather minimal that left missed opportunities for intricate and interesting visuals. And while the character designs are unique, the world itself leaves a bit to be desired, especially because Joe spends a considerable amount of his time here. It doesn’t quite reach the technical or visual prowess of previous Pixar titles such as “Coco,” where the otherworldly setting was both culturally specific and visually stunning.
Joe is wonderfully voiced by Jamie Foxx as the viewer watches the character grow and develop as the movie progresses. Pixar is well known for their iconic memorable characters and Joe Gardener is no exception.
The soundtrack by Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Joe Batiste is absolutely beautiful and will be a joy to listen to for any Jazz fan. Every time the characters play music and drift off into their musical world of bliss, the music swells providing a highly emotional tone that leaves you more invested in the characters.
With “Soul” Pixar delivers one of the most emotionally impactful films that they have released in a while. It is a film about living in the moment and enjoying the simple things in life. If you’re feeling a bit existential recently, “Soul” might be the movie to pick your spirits back up.
Availability: Available to stream now on Disney +
Star Rating: Four out of five stars
- Top notch animation and visuals
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Great character development and growth
- Some environments could have been more detailed
- Narrative structure is nothing new, can be predictable