We all have dreams growing up as children. For me, I always wanted to be a major league baseball player. However, our life’s purpose eventually collides with our dreams. Sometimes, children’s dreams mesh with life’s purpose. But for most people (like myself), our lives take another direction as we grow up. This isn’t a bad thing however, as we are meant to live every minute by making the most of it. That, among other things, is the purpose of life and the message Pixar’s Soul gives audiences. Dealing with thematic elements for people of all ages, Soul takes us on a spiritual journey that is both beautiful and touching, which makes for one of the year’s best movies. The end results will differ for kids and adults, but Pixar veteran director Pete Doctor delivers another movie that is in the top half of Pixar’s entire catalogue.
Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.
As we watch Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) show his talents on the piano, we root for him to finally get his big break as a jazz pianist. But not so fast. When Joe gets in an accident that has him wind up in the Great Before (a world dubbed the “beforelife”), he must help Soul 22 (voiced by wonderfully quirky Tina Fey), deemed unteachable, understand the concept of life before he can either go back to earth or go toward the Great Beyond (a world dubbed the “afterlife”). Dealing with the subjects of life and death, Soul may seem to some as Pixar’s Inside Out (which dealt with emotions), for adults. However, there are more than enough elements and scenes that are equally enjoyable for kids, especially once Joe meets Soul 22. When Joe and Soul 22’s journeys collide, laughs ensue and so do their purposes that help drive things home in the second half of the movie. While Soul’s payoff might take longer than you expect, it’s worth the wait, considering there’s not a dull moment or unnecessary subplot in the movie. And without spoiling anything, the movie’s affecting final few scenes are among the best in a Pixar movie in over a decade.
As is the case with every new Pixar movie, the animation always appears even more detailed than their previous entry. And that’s certainly the case with Soul, where every passing frame is as polished as the previous one. Taking us through the streets and businesses that help make New York come alive (along with the worlds outside of earth), Pixar’s animation continues to be a cut above most of the animation competition. And with music playing a vital role in the movie, the attention to detail in combining the accurate movements necessary to produce the actual sounds coming from the instruments is a masterful touch. And speaking of music, famed musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross compose the score for Soul, which is among the best in any movie you’ll see this year.
In a year full of many more downs than ups, including the closing of movie theaters for almost six months and smaller attendance once the theaters reopened, Disney is gifting people with Soul on their subscription service, Disney+, free of charge on Christmas Day. While I’m disappointed that I could not see this top-tier Pixar movie in a theater, I can certainly understand it going straight to a streaming service given how we’re still in the middle of a pandemic without any sign of returning to some type of normal anytime soon. Soul is a moving gift filled with purpose, which is exactly the sort of message (or gift) we could all use on Christmas Day.