Get ready to re-rank the best Pixar films in history.
Somehow, Disney found a way yet again to not only blow many of us away with their dazzling animation but to continually suscept us to heartfelt (and beautiful) stories that have stayed with audiences for decades. Soul belongs in Pixar’s S-tier of films, including the popular Toy Story series, Up, The Incredibles, and WALL-E.
This film follows a middle school teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), who dreams of a music career and wants to follow it up with such passion. He gets an opportunity to play for the jazz legend Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). He impresses her before accidentally falling into a maintenance hole in the middle of New York City. He awakens to find his soul separated from his body and works with 22 (Tina Fey) and others to reunite his soul and body to play in the quartet by nighttime. Along the way, he bonds with 22 and gives her a taste of why life should be lived to the fullest.
Soul takes its work and jumps to the metaphysical stage. Instead of pursuing the superficial and materialistic world with such haste and judgment, it offers a great look into the concept of death and what an afterlife could become. Along the way, it paces itself superbly with a light tone and some touching moments. When 22 gets to taste what pizza is and gets to hold a leaf in her hand, it fascinates how the small things in life bring much joy and happiness. Nothing should ever become taken for granted.
Director Pete Doctor takes the time to ask us the most critical questions disguised in the film’s beauty and humor: What gives one purpose? Does your career define you, or does your passion? When Joe plays music at the end of the movie in a mini montage, it recalls the bittersweet, complicated emotion he once experienced when growing up with music. It also serves as a return to form for Pixar as they have dwindled slightly in recent years ever since producing the potent Toy Story 3.
The daring concept Pixar takes is that this film stays explored through the perspective of a black male. Maybe they were treading the waters regarding subtle racism or continual mistreatment of minorities. None of that occurred. Instead, Pixar sought to bring life and jubilation through the impounding of R&B music and how one can get lost in the spectrum of this art. In Joe’s mind, music is a form of escapism and the beauty that one can narrow in on to feel content and cheery. It is the very passion that allows him to give 22 a chance to understand the “sparks” of life. They do not exist in one place; they are everywhere.
When Pixar dares to step into uncharted territories, they succeed astoundingly. Monsters Inc. succeeded in giving humanistic moments to a monster who scared humans for a living and allowed him to bond touchingly with an innocent child. Coco was a sizeable attribute (and salute) to Mexican culture and death. And the scarcity of dialogue in WALL-E evocated brilliance when having the romance of two robots implies that our hearts beat for the sake of humanity and love.
Maybe the movies would have been the way to touch our souls this year. But Disney and Pixar proved that if one is willing to embrace their storytelling methods, they can find warmth even by sitting at home and enjoying this beauty of a work. Soul will touch many of our souls and give us insight into how wonderful life can (and should) be. If one has Disney+, please take the time to view another masterpiece of art from Pixar as they continue to find ways to touch us both physically and spiritually