Pixar has been a staple of most of this generation’s childhood cinematic experiences. For their latest premiering on Disney+, “Soul” might be one of their very best. We follow a music teacher named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) who is transported out of his body to a soul world after he’s lost his passion. In order to find his way back to the land of the living, Joe is forced to go on a journey of self-discovery with an infant soul, simply known as 22 (Tina Fey). What transpires is one of 2020's most enjoyable and meaningful cinematic offerings.
Whenever you hear the name “Pixar,” audiences have come to form high expectations. In recent years especially, the themes of films like “Inside Out'' have been used in a real-world setting. Here we get idea about broadening your horizons and not becoming obsessive over one thing. Something like that may sound quite profound, but what makes it work is the delivery in a kid-friendly package. What I mean by that is a film that has a little bit of everything for whoever is watching. The world that Joe is transported to is something that’s purely a sight to behold. If the idea of the film toying with themes of an “afterlife” worries you, please know you shouldn’t be.
It’s designed as a beautiful Utopia filled with endless possibilities including the cycle of life. When we first meet Joe, there’s a longing for a better life. He loves his music, but that’s the only thing that really calls to him. As a performer, this lets Foxx deliver a vocal performance that’s warm, but with a stroke of sadness. We feel sad for this man, but want him to succeed in just about any way possible. This starting point really forms his arch as a character when he meets Fey’s unborn soul “22.”
As this character, Fey gets to have the dry wit and fast-talking humor that we have come to expect. What makes the character stand out is her noticeably jaded cynicism that allows her to make some really striking comments. They’re certainly the sort of comments that never cross any kind of boundaries, but the kind of things that can get some really great comedy. A particular sequence early on involving the mentors 22 has had in the soul world are the most shocking moments of comedy I’ve seen in a while. Following the cliche of the “odd pairing,” these characters' relationship is my favorite thing about the film.
Both 22 and Joe most definitely follow a pattern narratively that you can predict from their very first meeting. What makes it stand out is the chemistry between each of these characters. Even though we know their personalities, which makes us know the path they’ll take, we still can’t wait to see it get there. It is the sort of cliche that makes the journey very much worth the destination. What I cannot stress enough is how much I was moved by the last frame and line of dialogue. It truly is the equivalent of a cinematic “chief’s kiss” to their audience.
For something that you’ll be able to watch with your family on Christmas day, you cannot do better than “Soul.” It’s funny, moving, exciting, and has meanings and themes everyone can relate to. There’s rare lightning in a bottle sort of quality that I just can’t quite put into words. What I do know is that it’s a film I’ve seen a total of three times now and cannot wait to see it again. “Soul” is one of the most soulful and joyous movies that I’ve seen in all of 2020, and I think you’ll feel the same way.