Soul (2020) movie review
The latest film from Pixar, Soul follows Joe, a music teacher/jazz musician who finds himself in the Great Beyond. Now, with the help of 22, a skeptical soul from the Great Before, he must find a way to return to his body. And if that doesn’t make sense, well that’s only the beginning! Soul was released on Disney+ on Christmas to predominantly strong reviews, reportedly defeating HBO Max’s Wonder Woman 1984 in subscribers gained for the streaming services.
Now I went into Soul with high expectations based on, well, Pixar. Pixar has a habit of marketing that feels- well hard to predict. This inability to form expectations typically leads to tears by the end of the film. This wasn’t necessarily the case with Soul. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s very good by Pixar standards, and that means its great by all others! So if you are looking for a quick ‘should you watch it or not?’ Watch it.
Now before I get to the story, I want to touch on the tone, which is something Pixar almost always manages to get right. And Soul is NO exception. It’s energetic, fun, (heck it’s hilarious!) moving, and perfectly balanced for what this film wants to be. It’s not too long, not too short; it’s an all-around enjoyable watch with plenty of heart. Just don’t set expectations for the way the story paces itself. I know that’s a strange thing to say, but Soul is often a very strange film. Better for it? Absolutely! But still odd as far as the narrative goes.
Of course quality is something else we’ve come to expect from Pixar by now. The score from Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor, and Atticus Ross fits seamlessly, and while I never felt the need to listen to it outside the film, there’s no denying that it works! The voice performances from Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey are great, and while I would LOVE to talk about dramatic voice acting, gosh Graham Norton and Richard Ayoade are absolutely hilarious! And if course the animation is second to maybe only one this year for me, only because the detail work in Soul looks to incredible that I think they just shot footage of actual locations and added in animated characters. Except for, you know, the Great Beyond and all that- you know what, that joke didn’t really work! What I’m trying to say is that it’s a very good looking movie!
Now here’s the thing that’s hard to judge in Soul: the story. Soul tackles a few themes dealing with life, purpose, and more. That sounds easy, but the film aims for a higher, well, older audience here, offering a more complex exploration of these themes than I was expecting. So in the end, this film really hit me on an emotional level! But it probably won’t do that for younger audiences, and I kept thinking about that throughout the entire last act of the film. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a very funny movie, but I’m not certain that everything presented here will be able to capture the attention of anyone in the age range that Pixar can usually target. I love Inside Out (2016) because it makes sense to kids AND adults! heck, I love almost every Pixar film for that reason! Soul feels like the anti-Cars (2006), where it probably just won’t click for half of the viewers.
So all that is to say that I thought it was great, but the more mature story did take away from the potential enjoyment I had watching the film and knowing that everyone was feeling something similar. Is that strange? I don’t know, but that’s just how I feel about Soul. Regardless, it’s a great movie, and one absolutely worth watching! It’s visually stunning, consistently funny, and pretty deep. This is one of those films that is probably even better on a second viewing, but for now I’ll play it safe and give Soul a solid 8/10.
So Soul? Have you watched it yet? What did you think? And what Pixar film hit you the hardest? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let me know! And if you liked this review and you want to read more like it, leave a comment below and let us know what you’d like us to review next!
-review by Ryan Prince