Soul is good. Like damn good. A movie hasn’t hit me like that since Inside Out. Pixar really is unmatched when it comes to knocking out absolute bangers. Soul is terrific, creative and thoughtful. I continuously said out lout during the movie “Wow, this is really good” and “I really like this movie” when it had barely been running 30 minutes.
There will be some light spoiler-ish things below but it’s thematic and not plot.
Its refreshing to see something that feels so earnest and thoughtful, especially to cap off a year that was not all peaches and candy. Maybe that’s part of what made Soul hit me the way it did. The movie isn’t fast paced but it moves along really well and never gets boring. At the same time, it gives you time to think about what its showing you and saying. You can pause and reflect during a scene as it breathes, allowing you to take it all in.
The best part is that it says a lot visually without having to explain everything. The animation is simple yet complex. The message of the movie is conveyed via visuals and feeling, not just dialogue. Show, don’t tell. It makes the message that much stronger when you can feel something. You can feel what the heavier, weighted scenes are saying without saying anything at all.
I’m not trying to give the impression that the entire film is heavy or dark. It isn’t. You get a lot of fun and humour and hijinks with creativity and laugh out loud moments. It’s just that there is a balance of those scenes with the scenes that make you think, and that’s why Pixar is Pixar.
I feel like this movie wasn’t really made with kids in mind, or not as much as you might assume considering it is an animated film from Pixar. Its still a kid’s movie, but I don’t know if the themes are as easy to spot for a child as they are in something like Inside Out by comparison.
Sure, you’ve got your bright colours and your silly, creative and fun cartoonish non-world world. But you’re also dealing with themes such as life purpose, death, fulfillment, passion, self-reflection and self-image. What is the purpose of life and how do you approach that versus how does someone else?
It makes me wonder what Pixar could do if they fully wanted to drop the Rated G focus and went for something a little more Oscar bait or “adult” in its target. However, part of the magic is that they can approach topics that relate to all ages with a maturity that Soul carries but also make it light and digestible as media.
I wouldn’t say the movie goes anywhere unexpected, but that isn’t a bad thing. Doing what people expect is perfectly fine when you do it well. Subversion of expectations is great too, but it isn’t always necessary. This isn’t to say the story is completely linear as it does twist and turn, but never in a way has loses the plot. It keeps focus on the message.
Pete Docter did a wonderful job directing this film as everything is spot on from character designs to the look of the world to creating a simple to understand not-world world to explore. The characters are animated and obviously cartoonish, but they also look and act like people. Jamie Foxx does a terrific job as the lead in Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher with a deep love of jazz. Tina Fey is terrific in her role as well and as much as Joe is the main character, you could argue this is just as much her story.
The best part about both of their performances is that they both just come across as regular people. Foxx is great at making Joe sound just like A Guy, the same way as Tina Fey makes her character sound just like a completely normal random as well.
Sometimes you just need a reminder to appreciate the small things and live. It sounds like a Hallmark card, but it doesn’t make the message any less important. Perspective is everything. There’s nothing wrong with a life highlight being when you sit down to eat a piece of pecan pie, just as much as it may be exciting to have highlights where you’re living your dreams and are genuinely feeling fulfilled and successful.
Having passion is great, but don’t let it become an obsession. Don’t let one aspect of your life dominate everything else as that could limit the connections and experiences you have with others. To me, that might be one of the biggest takeaways in a world where fandoms of video games, comics, anime, music, sports or politics are becoming defining features where you it can make you feel like you have to strongly belong to one Thing and get tunnel vision to an extent you lose empathy for other opinions and the world around you.
Focusing on one Thing might make you happy. I won’t tell you not to, but having to compromise that Thing due to life and finding happiness within the life you’ve built and in new avenues holds exciting potential. Diverging from expectations can be as fulfilling as meeting expectations.
Its fitting that Soul is about making you feel, reflect and emotionally analyze. The magic comes in doing that without being preachy as at no point do you feel like the film is talking down to you. You’re swept up by the bright colours and the story telling before you even realize you just got a great lesson in mental health.
I honestly can’t think of the last time a movie made me reflect on my life and made me want to do more as a person. It’s a great middle age version of a coming of age story. You’re never too old to learn more, achieve better and become more of who you want to be.
Music really is a great metaphor and focus for the film. Music isn’t always about what you hear. Music is about how it makes you feel. Just as important as a big solo are the quiet sections and the build as the song progresses, the rests and resets. A song that is five or ten minutes of a solo or a great hook would get boring and would not have as much meaning without everything else around it.
Can’t believe we’re at the end and I avoided saying Soul has a lot of soul. Oops.
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