Soul – Review

Soul (2020) is the latest film to emerge from Disney Pixar, a studio noted for some of the best animated films to have emerged over the last almost 3 decades. Written and Directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers, with Docter most noted for the incredible emotional hits such as Inside Out (2015) and Up (2009). So how does his latest film, Soul, stack up?


Soul follows Jazz musician and teacher Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, a man who thinks his day is coming up Millhouse when he gets the opportunity of his dreams to play at the Half Note in New York. This is until he unexpectedly falls down a man hole to his death. As his soul begins the journey to the Great Beyond, Joe tries to escape death and arrives at the Great Before.


Here we see how souls are formed into what will be fully fledged people down on Earth. Joe takes the place of one of the counsellors, people who lived great lives on Earth and are tasked with helping new souls get their Earth badge to join the ever-growing human race. Here Joe meets 22, voiced by Tina Fey, a soul that has never earned her Earth badge and Joe is tasked with helping her get to Earth. Their journey is filled with fun, sadness and some real surprises in there too.


The plot feels very standard Pixar by this point; a creative and colourful idea placed within very real world circumstances.  It’s certainly something Pete Docter excels at, these premises in his work with the studio. And they’re a good foundation to build a narrative on. You have the colour filled ideas flourishing throughout the film, something that children can instantly latch onto.


Whilst along side that you have these more mature ideas built into the narrative, such as death, grief and our purpose in life. I refuse to believe Pixar actually set out to make children’s films because of this. As much as my Nephew enjoys the animation and art style of Monsters Inc (2001) I would expect him to understand the themes of the energy crisis and why someone like Waternoose would do the acts that he does in that film until he’s much older.


When you really look at the narrative with the themes and goals of Soul it’s certainly questionable as to whether this is a film for children. It’s darker in places, and lighter in some. It’s fun whilst being serious and that’s really all a film like this needs to be in it’s storytelling. Soul certainly understands its audience in this regard, a real testement to how far Pixar have come since their early years


Of course when discussing any animated film, the animation will come into question. Pixar were one of the biggest innovators of animation when their short film Tin Toy (1988) came forward. And consistently they’ve innovated animation year after year. Soul is no exception to this innovation. The animation is beautiful, a real treat for the eyes. It’s some of the best this art style has to offer and it’s what Pixar do best. It’s even more impressive when you consider that the film was finished by animators working from home.


This may well be one of the best original films Pixar have released in years. Soul is both beautiful in its animation, art style and story telling and execution. Beautiful really is the best word to sum a film like Soul up, as it really embodies everything this film means to be.


Whilst Disney may have done the most soulless thing possible in deciding to release this direct to Disney Plus and denying this the cinema treatment it deserves, Soul by no means is a film devoid of soul. However I for one will be one of the first to be re-watching Soul come Christmas Day.


Seen as part of London Film Festival at The Showroom Sheffield


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