REVIEW: Soul

Soul, released on December 25th, is the newest movie by Disney-Pixar, available exclusively on the Disney Plus platform. Unfortunately, I do not think it lived up to the Pixar standard, and was much more sub-par than most Pixar films.

While I didn’t think it was that superb of a movie, Soul definitely had its shining moments. I loved the interesting and clever representation of the Great Beyond (and Great Before), and I thought the all-powerful “beings” that controlled the after/before life that were so cute and well-designed. In fact, I think one of the movie’s strongest elements was its animation design. The characters were so richly different, when black cartoon characters are often overlooked or stereotypical. I loved all the different face shapes, hair, bodies, and voices, and I loved that basically the entire human cast was black, and the movie was not centered around their blackness in any way. That is not something you often get from a movie-making monopoly like Disney. Also, the design of the afterworld and the afterworld beings were awesome, especially the “god” figures, who were made up of abstract lines, and could travel along the lines of other things, which was so clever. And the unborn souls were basically little blobs that bounced around everywhere, so the element of adorable that is a key part of any Disney movie was kept intact.

In Disney and Pixar’s “Soul,” Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx), a middle-school band teacher in New York City, makes one small misstep and ends up in The Great Before, a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. There, he meets Terry (voice of Rachel House), who is charged with the singular duty of keeping track of the entrants to The Great Beyond. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey) to show her what’s great about living. Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers and produced by Academy Award® nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a., “Soul” will debut exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) on December 25, 2020. ©2020 Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.

However, I definitely think the movie had several flaws. For one, I was left with quite a bit of confusion and questions about the theme of the movie when it was over. The movie’s climax is when the main character differentiates between his “spark” and his “purpose”, which is never really elaborated on enough to be clear to viewers. They sort of make this differentiation at the end of the movie, but it is very much glossed over. I feel like if I had trouble understanding the main theme and point of the movie, then it is going to go right over the heads of the intended audience, mainly young children. While the movie was definitely adorable, I did not find that it had much meaning when it boiled down to the storyline and overall message. I know it was a Disney movie, but I feel like they usually have a bit more substance and meaning than this one did. I also thought the movie had such a good opportunity to display some fantastic jazz, and while they did have some, I thought it was a mediocre amount and quality. The movie could have had a ton more music, and they could have used recognizable tunes to make it more broadly relatable as well.

In conclusion, I thought the movie was cute and clever, but the plot line and theme were a little weak. I would recommend if you really enjoy Disney movies and were probably going to watch it anyway, but I would definitely not place this up there with some of the much better Pixar movies that have been released in the past.

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