In Review: Disney’s ‘Soul’ is a celebration of life and new beginnings


Courtesy of Disney+

Pixar’s “Soul” is the animation studio’s newest fantasy comdey-drama film starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey.

Victoria Almaguer, Contributor

Pixar has given us many beautiful films since the 90’s, from Toy Story,” “Inside Out” to Up,” the studio has yet to run out of life lessons. Originally set to be released theatrically, the studio returned late last year by premiering “Soul” on Disney + Dec. 25, 2020, giving the world another beloved story at a time when it needs it the most. Soul, is a film by Oscar-winning director of “Inside Out” and “Up,” Pete Docter, from a script he co-wrote with Mike Jones and Kemp Powers. Being Pixar’s first film to feature a Black protagonist and among some of the films premiered on Disney+ last year, “Soul delivers a beautiful message involving new beginnings. Although it is not Pixar’s top-ranking film, the detailed animation, jazz soundtrack and fun characters invite the audience to sit back and enjoy the little things in life 

The story follows Joe Gardner, voiced by Jamie Foxx, a middle school teacher who dreams of becoming a jazz player, although those around him would rather he focused on having job security. When he finally gets the chance to perform alongside jazz legend, Dorothea Williams, he dies. As the form of a soul taken across to the Great Beyond, Joe cheats his way out and accidently lands in the “Great Before.There, he becomes a mentor to Tina Fey’s character, 22, a new soul who agrees to give her life badge to Joe but is uninterested in finding the “spark that would complete the ticket to Earth. Unable to help 22 find her passion, the characters seek help from a lost soul rescuer, Graham Norton’s Moonwind character, who succeeds in getting Joe out of the Great Beyond world. However, Joe accidentally brings 22 along, resulting in 22 entering his body and his soul ending up in a therapy cat. As they embark on their adventure to try and return themselves to their respected body and place, Joe and 22 begin to find their purpose in life and teach each other a great deal about what that truly means 

Although the film tries to translate an often-difficult message about death and what some believe comes after it, it is often hard to focus on the subject as a viewer is simultaneously trying to focus on the “spark” 22 needs to find. In addition, while we follow Joe and his struggle to fulfill his dream, the message of the movie feels rushed by the third act. Nevertheless, it makes the lesson clear: a person’s devotion to what they think is their life’s purpose doesn’t matter much if they don’t find time to enjoy life’s other moments while pursuing it. This includes a scene and feeling described beautifully by the filmmakers called “the zone,” a passionate inner space people enter when they are heavily inspired by their art; but also houses the lost souls who become obsessed and broken by their own passions. It is truly a beautifully described space and scene many can relate to 

Foxx and Fey are a great comedy duo that bring laughter to a harsh topic and year. With their animated characters helping them, the duo carries the movie from beginning to end. There are other notable performances like Rachel House’s Terry, a soul counselor for the Great Beyond,” and Daveed Diggss Paul, a bully who tries to bring Joe and his dream down any chance he gets. The film’s 23-piece soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross also deserves a notable mention for creating an authentic jazz sound fitting to the film’s literal and figurative depth. This element, along with a detailed animation that excludes racist imagery and stereotypes, brings a heartfelt warmth to its characters battling something bigger than themselves  

I give this movie a three picks out of five due to it losing most of its emotional impact by the third act. 

Although it does not reach the level of adoration Pixar’s Up or Toy Story have, Soul is still a fun movie to watch and can be set apart for its soundtrack and unique angle to explain the meaning of life. It strikes a chord to what was lost in 2020, matching a person’s eagerness to start living life to the fullest in 2021 and the years to come. It may leave some crying and others full of nostalgia, but that might just mean it did its job.   

Victoria Almaguer may be reached at [email protected]; @arctic_vicky on Twitter.