Ever since I started watching movies as a child, Pixar Animation Studios’ films hold a special place in my heart. Toy Story and The Incredibles are two of my favorite movies of all time, with other films such as Ratatouille and Monsters Inc. being masterpieces as well. When I saw their newest film, Soul, was released on Disney+ for Christmas, I was excited, checking it out the first chance I got. I am pleased to say Pixar has made another emotional masterpiece, as it hit me on so many levels.
Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, is a middle-school band teacher who is obsessed with music. It is his singular purpose in life, making it the only subject of conversation when talking with friends and family. He auditions to play piano with jazz legend Dorothea Williams’ band, succeeding in landing the gig. As he celebrates joyfully, he slips and falls through a manhole. He is then transported to a bridge to enter the “Great Beyond” in his soul form. However, in his pursuit to escape back to the land of the living, he eventually falls in the “Great Before,” a land where souls prepare for their life on earth.
As he tries to fight his way back to earth and make it in time for his performance with Williams, he meets 22, voiced by Tina Fey, a soul who Gardner builds a connection with. As he struggles to get his body back, he learns what it means to live life and who he really is.
Foxx and Fey are excellent in their roles. Foxx is a stellar actor, exemplified in his performances in Django Unchained, Baby Driver and Just Mercy. His performance in Soul is yet another example of his talents, as Foxx brings passion, yearning and a wide range of emotion to Gardner. Gardner is passionate about his gig and music, leading to conflict as he deals with the situation he is in, with Foxx’s performance bringing great emotion to the character. His chemistry with Fey is spot on, which is made even better due to 22’s difference in perspective.
Without getting into spoilers, I love this movie’s overall theme: discovering the meaning of life. As someone who has gone through a lot of change in my life the past couple of years, the purpose of life is something I often think about. I have my passions and obsessions, like Gardner does for music. However, there are characters in Soul that have no clear passions or interests, something others I know struggle with greatly. This conflict is one of life’s great struggles, a point this movie addresses. I will graduate college in almost a year and I have little to no clue what my life holds after that; a realization which scares me. Discovering one’s purpose and passions are vital to getting through life, a message this movie demonstrates extremely well.
The animation, like with Pixar’s other works, is tremendous. There is a scene in the second act where Gardner is walking through a crowd of people and it is animated to perfection. It presents a claustrophobic atmosphere while providing a high amount of detail to the people and places around him. The stunning display presents the excellence of Pixar’s animation. The emotion on the characters’ faces is great, as is the worlds’ designs. The bridge to the “Great Beyond,” in particular, looks breathtaking due to the great contrast of color and the vastness of the space around it.
Lastly, the music for the film is beautiful. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as Jon Batiste, composed the score. Reznor and Ross’s score is ambient, similar to Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar. To contrast, Batiste’s jazz gives the world around Joe a lively atmosphere. These two halves culminate in several scenes where the music alone brought me to tears. Batiste’s beautiful and authentic jazz music reminded me of the Justin Hurwitz’s music in La La Land. Also, Cody Chesnutt wrote, produced and performed an original song for the film, “Parting Ways.” The song was a tragically pretty piece, making it one of the best songs I have heard in a Pixar film.
Overall, Soul is another masterpiece created by Pixar. The film looks amazing with great voice acting and music, but what makes this film special is the writing of the overall theme. I do not have any flaws with this movie and I cannot wait to watch it again. I highly recommend everyone check Soul out, as both kids and adults can enjoy this film.