HomeMovies'Soul' Review: Doesn't Quite Live 'Up' to Pixar's Previous Work

‘Soul’ Review: Doesn’t Quite Live ‘Up’ to Pixar’s Previous Work

Photo Courtesy: Disney/Pixar

Pixar has always been that ace up Disney’s sleeve, consistently delivering beautifully animated tales full of memorable characters and messages fitting for viewers of all ages. However, with the newest film from Up and Inside Out co-writer/director Pete Docter, Soul, Pixar delivers an intriguing journey of life that’ll likely resonate more with older viewers.

The film follows Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx), an aspiring jazz piano player as he finally gets the chance to play in a prominent jazz band. However, his bad luck comes back for him when he falls through a manhole and into a coma – leaving him as a soul heading towards the “Great Beyond”. Resisting the urge to go into the light, Joe ends up finding himself in the “Great Before,” where new souls are mentored and given personality traits they will bring with them to Earth. Disguising himself as a mentor to hide from Terry (Rachel House), an accountant in charge of counting the souls heading to the Great Beyond, Joe ends up mentoring a soul named 22 (Tina Fey), who isn’t interested in going to Earth. Together, they make discoveries about life as they attempt to get Joe back into his body before the show.

First and foremost, Soul is a testament to how Pixar continues to raise the bar in animation, as it’s easily the most visually impressive film they’ve ever done. From the realistic textures and lighting to the incredibly fluid movement, Soul really embodies the future of animated films. I mean, the texture difference in Joe’s sweater and jeans and the way the light reflects off Joe’s piano to show the detail in his hand is just incredible. It’s even more impressive how Pixar creates realism without losing the fantastical feel of their stories. Even in the real world, there are plenty of whimsical moments of movement and wind that warm your heart and exploring the Before and Beyond is truly like this dreamy, trippy, and surreal journey that’s incredibly colorful and full of fantasy. Even the 2-D character design of Terry and other beings like them called Jerry have a 2-D animated look is cool and when Terry eventually heads to Earth, they look like a mind-blowing hybrid of high quality animation and live-action. The animation is likely the one place that many younger viewers will be the most invested, since the story feels more geared towards an older audience.

Now, this isn’t to say that Soul will bore kids. The animation is so dazzling and superb that it’ll keep anyone entranced and younger viewers will likely connect with 22’s awe and amazement with Earth and her more childlike personality. However, because Joe’s story requires some life experience that younger viewers just don’t have yet, Soul is likely going to connect deeper with adults. Things like Joe working as a middle school band teacher hoping he’ll one day achieve his dream and understanding your passions and spark just aren’t things kids will understand like their parents. Even the humor is more adult-oriented.

Soul hits Family Guy levels with its use of great cutaways to create incredibly funny moments. The comedic timing is on point whether it’s 22 interacting with some recognizable past mentors, showing how 22 messes with the Knicks, or what Moonwind (Graham Norton)–a very peaceful soul who can travel to the Great Before through meditation–does on Earth. The whole sequence at the barbershop is great and there’s an unexpected body-switching sequence that leads to plenty of hilarious confusion. It also helps that this film is perfectly cast and directed, as everyone perfectly blends into their characters to make the film’s views on life and living genuinely heartwarming.

Soul isn’t just about romanticizing life, though, and actually does a great job injecting some cynicism and hard doses of reality into the story. From how Joe constantly faces backlash from his mother Libba (Phylicia Rashad) about going out of his way to follow his dream rather than commit to a full-time gig to 22’s cynical and snarky views of living on Earth, there’s this full scope of life that leads to some epiphanies that show the simple beauty of living. The main message that Soul delivers is pretty familiar and relatively timeless: that it’s not about the destination or goal, but rather the little things along the way. Now, this is a perfectly good message that makes the film sort of fitting for families to watch together, but there’s already a Pixar film that does this same thing and, at least in my opinion, does it better: Up.

While Up’s big themes bout enjoying the little adventures in life rather than fixating on one goal fel surprising and left a deep impact, Soul just hits the base message without cutting deeper. Docter, co-writer and director Kemp Powers, and co-writer Mike Jones create an emotional swell as Joe and 22 go through their own realizations about life while journeying through NYC. Rather than focus on more infamous and glamourous sites like Times Square or Grand Central Station, their journey has them snagging a slice from a local pizza shop, getting a fresh cut from Joe’s longtime barber, and playing at a local jazz club. The film tries to have a similar kind of life montage as Up , but doesn’t leave that same kind of emotional impact and just leads into an ending that’s perfectly good if a tad underwhelming with how quickly it wraps up.

Soul is definitely a shining example of Pixar’s strengths in both animation and storytelling. It creates a beautifully animated look into the smallest, but most meaningful slices of life while delivering a timeless message that will warm the hearts of most viewers. Even while it pales in comparison to some of Docter’s Up, it’s an experience that definitely doesn’t disappoint.

Soul is now available on Disney+.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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