Soul (2020)

soul poster 2020 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great looking, more complex than some Pixar movies

Pretty heavy and less defined

Movie Info

Movie Name: Soul

Studio: Pixar Animation Studios

Genre(s): Animated/Comedy/Drama/Musical/Family

Release Date(s): October 11, 2020 (London Film Festival)/December 25, 2020 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

soul joe gardner piano

Find your spark!

All Joe Gardner has ever wanted to be is a jazz musician.  Bouncing from job to job and finally finding a place as a middle school music teacher, Joe questions if his dream will ever succeed.  When a former student contacts Joe with a chance to perform for jazz legend Dorothea Williams, he thinks his luck might be turning around…until he falls into an open manhole.  Joe discovers he’s died but decides he can’t die when he’s finally got his big chance.  When he is paired with a stubborn unborn soul named 22 that hasn’t found its own direction, Joe sees it as a means back home…but 22 could show Joe the real meaning of what is important.

Directed by Pete Docter (penned the script with Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, Soul is a Pixar animated family feature.  Following Onward (also released in 2020), the Pixar film was originally scheduled for a theatrical release before being released on Disney+ due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  It received positive reviews and Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score with a nomination for Best Sound.

soul joe gardner 22

Having a soul means liking to eat…I’ve got a soul!

Pixar is tricky.  While they often do great stuff, it also feels like they are often pandering.  The movies try to get the biggest possible audience with jokes for adults and jokes for kids and the stories seem to always seek out that zinger to pull on the heart strings.  While some of this is true for Soul, it also feels different than some of the recent Pixar releases.

Soul doesn’t feel entirely marketable.  There aren’t a lot of characters that are “sellable”.  Though 22 is fun, I can’t imagine a kid asking his or her parents for Soul toys.  Instead, Soul is filled with much more “real” people than some animated films, and the story reflects that.  Soul is about what drives you, and by the end of the film, I think the answers are murky.  Joe gets his shot but realizes that it doesn’t necessarily fulfill him…likewise, he doesn’t feel completely fulfilled by teaching (which would be the easy and Disney answer).  Instead, Joe seems content which what life will bring him.  It isn’t a neatly wrapped story that children or adults will necessarily embrace.

The cast for the film is nice and diverse.  The world inhabited by Joe and the characters draw actors from all over.  Jamie Foxx gets to return to the piano of Ray Charles as Joe and gives the character a heaviness that fits the plot.  Tina Fey is the obvious Pixar casting, but she too is “old” for a soul that is supposed to be old.  The movie roles are filled out with Phylicia Rashad, Questlove, Donnell Rawlings, Graham Norton, Rachel House, and Angela Bassett among other actors.

soul lost souls

Get a soul or end up like these guys

I am often on the fence about computer animation, but I really liked Soul’s visuals.  The movie has the standard “Earth” look, but the visuals of the after (and before) life are unique and different (the oddly 2D keepers of that world are an interesting look).  In addition to that, there are great visual sequences that show how people can get caught up in music and inspiration…something Soul does well.

Soul is one of the most musical non-musical Pixar films.  While there aren’t any songs or numbers in the movie, it feels like it is wrapped in music from its visuals to its sound.  The title obviously is a double-entendre for both what is inside of someone and drives them but also the music that shapes Joe’s life…Soul succeeds and does it without compromising for the viewers.  Pixar follows Soul with Luca in 2021.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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