Julien Neaves, Editor
One of the films getting a lot of award buzz this season is Pixar’s fantasy comedy-drama Soul. The film stars the voice of Jamie Foxx as jazz pianist and music teacher Joe Gardner who dies on the verge of his “big break”. When he is transported to a colourful version of the afterlife he is unwilling to accept his fate and escapes back to Earth together with a pessimistic soul named 22 (voiced by SNL alum Tina Fey).
It is directed by Pixar veteran Pete Docter (Monsters Inc., Up and Inside Out) and while those films addressed deep themes like parenthood, loss and balancing emotions, Soul is their deepest and most mature effort yet. Here’s my spoiler free review.
Before I dive into it, let me get the obvious stuff out of the way first. It’s a Pixar film, so I am sure no one is surprised that the animation is lively and gorgeous. Soul is the first Pixar film with a black protagonist and predominantly black cast, and the animators did a splendid job of bringing these diverse characters to life while avoiding caricature. The voice cast is also top notch including Angela Bassett as seasoned jazz musician Dorothea Williams. And speaking of jazz, musician Jon Batiste composed a number of toe-tapping original jazz songs for the film. Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed a new-age score for the otherworldly scenes.
One of the first things I noted (and most people would notice) is that Soul leans much heavier on the drama than on the comedy aspect. There is some humour, including a couple slapstick moments and some very witty banter between Joe and 22, but this is no laugh-a-minute riot. So if you go into this one expecting to be chuckling all the way through, you will be disappointed.
The film spends most of its runtime exploring the existential themes of purpose and destiny, something you would more expect to find in a college philosophy class rather than an animated children’s movie. And while there are the cute, colourful characters, and some silly shenanigans, this one would be a bit too heavy and slow paced for younger viewers and would be much better appreciated by adult audiences.
And there is a lot to appreciate as Soul is a deeply resonant and thoughtful viewing experience that leave you with a five-course-meal worth of food for thought.
Julien’s Score: 9.5 out of 10
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.