I don’t know about you, but Pixar have definitely hit me with some sort of trauma.
Every time I go to start one of their films, I’m sort of on edge, preparing for whatever emotionally taxing journey they’re going to take me on. Thankfully I know it will be mixed with parts humour and wholesomeness, yet I also know something is about to happen which will mess me up.
And Soul is no exception.
We follow Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a middle school teacher infused with the soul of Jazz. You see, it helps him find another way to talk, and it is so infused into his being that it takes him away to a world of his own. While the ‘teach’-life supplies him with the means to get by, he chases down his dream of Jazz to the end of his days! And he succeeds! His passion has finally led him to his dream fulfilled and it’s all uphill from here.
Then he goes to the Great Beyond.
That’s no subtle metaphor, he dies. “Is ThIs a sPOiLeR?”. No sweet soul, it’s in the trailer. And you’re probably thinking “Ohhhh…the title Soul is a play on words”. Pixar do be smart like that. So Joe ends up in the Great Beyond, but then ends up in the Great Before. Basically in this film, those planes are theoretical or hypothetical but it all leads back to life on Earth.
Enter 22 (Tina Fey).
22 is a soul who doesn’t wish to be born (wow, relatable). Through plot development, Joe establishes a means to get back to his dream and live the life he’d been waiting for; The one he believes he had earned and deserves. From there, I won’t dive into what happens next, but the film’s marketing campaign has done an exceptional job of telling us just enough to piece together where Soul heads. And yes, while it’s a little bit of heartbreak, it’s also probably one of the most meaningful messages I’ve seen in film this year.
“What is your purpose? Your spark?”
It’s an obvious sentiment, but I suppose with the year we’ve had, it’s possibly something we’ve all forgotten to look out for. What is our intent in life? And why does it have to be this thing we attach to words like “dreams” and “passion”? Soul asks the audience to look at this and wonder the “wonder” of it all.
And again, while on the obvious, Pixar excel at their craft. A story with a perfect cast, Graham Norton standing out as maybe “playing himself but mixed with a little more wacky”, help deliver these wonderful new characters created by the team. And yes, New Zealand’s very own Rachel House also stands out in a way only she can. A stunning animated caricature of humanity wonderfully rendered amongst a soundscape created by Jon Batiste, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, continues to show the quality of work the studio is known for.
Soul is another win for Pixar.
And while it is unfortunate that COVID has affected its cinematic release, I feel it’s the type of story which as many people should see on release. Disney+ grants us the means to do this, and I can only hope you take the message in, walk outside, and love the Soul you have inside.
Soul pretty much touches your soul, with its melodically, melancholic journey through the concepts of life and death. Funny, wholesome, depressing and eye-opening, I only hope you end up seeing tomorrow in a whole new, Jazzin' way.
XENOJAY.COM was supplied with media access to an early screener of SOUL. It is due for release on Disney+ in NZ on 26/12/20.