Released: 25th December
Seen: 25th December
Sometimes I wonder exactly what devil Pixar made a deal with in order to produce its films, because it’s getting to the point where their output is just consistently great. Even their worst film (The Good Dinosaur, I will not be taking arguments at this time) is better than what a lot of their competitors make and when they hit something out of the park it turns into one of the best films of all time. This year they already made one great film with Onward, which got shafted due to the pandemic, and were meant to release Soul in June. That pandemic made them pull Soul and then they had to rethink its release… enter Disney+, which now houses the best Pixar film of the year in Soul.
Soul follows Jazz musician and teacher Joe Gardner (Jaime Foxx) who keeps trying to make it as a musician but keeps not quite making it. Today it’s different though, today he has a chance to be the pianist in a famous Jazz quartet and it’s his big break… and then, in a moment that Mel Brooks would call comedy, Joe falls into an open sewer and dies. Of course death means going into the Great Beyond and Joe doesn’t want that so, during a moment of panic, he escapes into the Great Before where new souls are given their personalities before descending to earth. It’s there that Joe meets 22 (Tina Fey) who has spent thousands of years avoiding getting her spark, the thing she needs in order to be able to go to earth. Joe realises that if he wants to get back to his body, he has to help 22 find her spark.
…and that’s the first 30 minutes of the film.
If Soul is comparable to any film in the Pixar canon, it’s Inside Out which is my absolute favourite film Pixar has ever made. Soul also tackles an incredibly deep subject – death and the meaning of life – and tries to break it down into a way that can be understood by children. It touches on so many heavy things, from the expectations of parents to living your dreams to accepting the turns life throws at you to just enjoying life as it is, and so many more massive concepts that really hit hard because Pixar are masters at making heavy topics work in family films.
The film has this almost scientifically perfect blend of comedy and emotional gut punches, the comedy delivered largely through cutaway gags that litter the film (the sequence where 22 talks about her old mentors had me gasping for air) while the biggest gut punch naturally happens at the end and, like all Pixar films know how to do, it will rip your heart out and turn you into a babbling mess as you realise how this film has made you think about your destiny and life in general, and also cry because (Insert spoiler about the emotional shot involving the two main characters that happens right near the end that had me whispering “I’ve just got something in my eye” before wailing like an anime character).
Then you have to think about the representation, the film heavily leans into Jazz as a way to explore the concept of life and also acknowledges that Jazz is an art form born of black culture so almost all of the main characters and cast are black. I’d say go read a review by someone black to get a better idea of how important this representation is, but I’m just gonna state that it felt refreshing to have an animated film handle representation like this so well.
When I watched Soul on Christmas Day, I sat and watched it with my younger brother and mother and all of us watched in awe as the film ran between multiple animation styles, laughed at all the jokes and were emotional at the appropriate time and when it ended, we all had 2 thoughts.
- If this ever gets re-released in cinemas, it would be worth going out to see again
- This is one of the best things Pixar has ever made
Unbeknownst to my family, I ended up having a third thought
- Damn… I have to adjust my ten best films of the year now