Pixar’s Soul centers on two souls whose lives have yet to begin. For 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), the condition is literal: She’s been kicking around for ages in the Great Before (not to be confused with the Great Beyond, aka the afterlife), where souls are formed before they’re born on Earth.
For Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), it’s more a state of mind. He’s a middle-school band teacher who’s always dreamt of being a jazz musician, and feels stuck in a rut as he waits for his “real life” to begin. It’s a feeling that’ll be familiar to so many of us down here on Earth, and maybe especially now that the pandemic has derailed our plans: Maybe this is the missing piece I need to feel contentment, maybe that is what will finally give my life purpose, maybe that other thing is what I was meant to be doing all along.
Trying to explain the very point of existence itself is a staggeringly ambitious endeavor.
And so it seems extra tragic when, on the one day Joe’s goals finally seem to be in reach, a freak accident lands him in the Great Before.
But Joe, having waited this long for his shot at a music career, isn’t about to give up that easily. In desperation, he agrees to mentor 22 and help her find the “spark” that signals she’s ready to live for real. 22, for her part, isn’t interested. Having run through countless mentors far more illustrious than Joe (“I made her cry,” she recalls smugly of Mother Theresa), she’s skeptical of the whole concept, and intends to stick around the Great Before for as long as she can.
From there, the journey toward 22’s spark — and, Joe hopes, his subsequent return to his life on Earth — takes the convoluted path that’s typical to Pixar adventures. There are delightful plot twists, including one involving a very perturbed cat; and a colorful band of spiritually enlightened souls who can cross between planes of existence; and a collection of squiggly line beings (voiced by the likes of Rachel House and Richard Ayoade) that serve as the stewards of the metaphysical realms. As you’d expect, the story is good for some laughs, many of them involving 22’s bratty attitude toward Joe’s increasingly exasperated attempts to help her, and some tears, because it wouldn’t be a Pixar movie without them.
But there’s a restlessness to the whole thing, as if Soul itself doesn’t quite have Soul figured out. And who could blame it? Even for a studio that’s previously ventured into the afterlife and plumbed the depths of human emotion, attempting to clarify the very level of existence itself is a staggeringly formidable endeavor. So, sure, the takeaway appears just a little vaguer than common, and it’s miles much less clear what would possibly change into of Joe and 22 on the finish of all of it, and wonderful, perhaps that ending would not fairly work with the story the film had been telling up ’til now. However as with so many precise human souls, Soul‘s quirks and imperfections are what make it fascinating. If its cerebral notions are much less dependable than the tear-jerking system that Pixar has perfected over the a long time, they’re additionally endearing of their boldness.
With its midlife disaster storyline and wistful messaging about what all of it means, Soul is arguably probably the most grown-up of the studio’s movies, regardless of its kid-friendly gags and PG score. Like 2019’s Toy Story 4, which argued for a life lived with intent, Soul‘s massive concepts appear extra geared towards adults who grew up watching Pixar and nonetheless flip to it for steering and luxury, than towards the little ones discovering the magic of Pixar for the primary time.
Even the artwork appears extra elegant than common, significantly as soon as Soul leaves the mortal coil. The souls themselves, with their squishy spherical our bodies, could look only a hop, skip, and a leap away from a Minion, however The Nice Past is all clear shapes rendered in stark blacks and whites, whereas the Nice Earlier than consists of glowing blues and purples rendered in smooth, fuzzy shapes. It is among the most hanging work that Pixar has ever turned in.
Soul remembers earlier Pixar movies like Coco, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles in its hero who feels referred to as to some increased objective (music, in Joe’s case, with the heady jazz compositions by Jon Batiste to again it up) however the message it carries extends past the fortunate few with the readability to know what they wish to do with their lives. It makes the case that the massive passions that drive you might be a part of life, positive, however so too are the small joys and acquainted routines and complex emotions. Cease ready, Soul whispers, gently. Simply begin dwelling.
Soul is now streaming on Disney+.