When Soul was bumped from its November 20th release date to Christmas Day on Disney+, I instantly knew what my top goal for my mini-Christmas vacation would be: sit and watch Soul with my family.
Not only was I successful with this goal, I also ended up watching a pretty enjoyable movie, though not one without a few flaws (I’ll get to that later). In fact, it was so much fun I didn’t realize until after the credits had rolled that (minor spoiler alert) there isn’t really a villain in this film. Which, if you think about it, doesn’t happen all that often. But really Soul doesn’t need a bad guy because it is dealing with a whole lot already.
Soul is, without a doubt, the deepest animated film I’ve ever seen. Think Inside Out and ratchet it up by a factor of 100 and you’ll be pretty close to the mark. In fact, Soul is so deep, that I wholeheartedly agree with every critic who has said that Soul is not and should not be considered a movie for children. This film deals pretty openly with matters of life and death, hinted reincarnation, chakras, the astral plane, the afterlife in general, and in short what it means to be alive on this Earth. It was a bold, BOLD move to deal with all of these concepts in a single film so openly and I applaud everyone involved with the film for putting that part of the story together. You might not agree with all of the beliefs presented or referenced in Soul (for example, I don’t believe in reincarnation), but you can easily appreciate the tone the film is going for: that there is way more to life and living than you might think.
Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner is an absolute delight. As a musician myself, I could totally feel the pull Joe is feeling between following his dreams of being a full time musician, and taking the pragmatic route by being a band teacher. Joe is the perfect kind of everyman to take us through the story, and the scenes where Joe loses himself in “the zone” while playing the piano….those moments spoke to me the most.
Tina Fey as 22….it took a while but she grew on me as the story went on. By the time the film reaches the emotional climax (and it IS emotional), I was fully invested in what happened to 22.
Also, I have to say I LOVE all of the music scenes in this film. It’s great to see jazz given such a prominent spotlight in a Disney Pixar film, and I really hope this encourages everyone watching, young and old, to give jazz another listen if they’ve dismissed the genre in the past.
Now, while I loved a LOT about Soul, it is not a film without flaws. Most noticeably…the middle of the film. I tried and tried to get around it, but I can’t excuse the middle act of the film. I had a feeling from the previews that something of a “screwball” nature would be occurring, but I was not prepared for what actually happened. Here’s the thing: this gag they go with (minor spoiler alert: when Joe’s soul is trapped in a cat’s body) is kind of funny, but it doesn’t quite fit what comes before and after. It’s almost like the writers struggled with how to transition from the beginning to the climax of the film and this was the best they could come up with. In other words, this part feels like it came from a slightly different film.
The good news is, while the middle of the film lags here and there, it more than recovers at the climax to leave me feeling very satisfied with the overall experience. I know there’s a lot of discussion about Joe spending a significant chunk of the film looking….other than himself, but really jazz and African-American culture is given such a spotlight…..pardon me if this sounds too forward, but I feel like it sort of balances out in the end.
I highly recommend Soul to anyone who hasn’t gotten the chance to see it yet. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year (and in the craziness that has been 2020 that’s saying a lot).
Let me know what you think about Soul in the comments below and have a great day!
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