Soul review

Soul review

Eric Reingardt, reporter

Like paper towels, good movies in the era of the pandemic are in high demand but short supply. Fortunately for us Disney’s Pixar has given us a present: Soul.

The trailer is misleading. The trailer begins in the “real world,” an immersive world capturing New York’s underground jazz culture. Then, it abruptly and literally drops into the afterlife that seems more like it is just a rehash of Inside Out. Maybe this was an intentional move to lower expectations? Either way, I would say to ignore the trailer because the film is much better than it was made to appear.

The animation style can only be described as hyper-realistic yet still cartoonishly proportioned. Pixar wanted to move to a more mature and real direction while not giving up entirely on the iconic looks signature of a 3D animated Disney film.

The characters are realistic and likable. I was especially relieved to find the usual annoying comic relief character archetype in Pixar films was absent, and the closest thing to it in the movie was the character “22” voiced by Tina Fey who was just enough of a comic relief not to leave a bad taste in the mouth. The main character, Joe Gardner voiced by Jamie Foxx, is a jazz band teacher with aspirations to be a professional pianist for a local jazz star. He is well-written for a protagonist: relatable enough for the viewer to identify with while still being an interesting character to watch grow and change.

The trailer made it seem like the film would be almost entirely about the afterlife seeming to waste that charming world in New York; fortunately, that is not the case. A great deal of time and character development is spent in the real world, and the film is pretty evenly balanced as far as going back and forth between realities.

The afterlife in Soul is similar in nature to the world in Inside Out, as many abstract concepts are put into tangible metaphorical devices. For example, unborn souls literally walk in and out of a building to get a personality trait. Using this formula from Inside Out, the writers had plenty of material to craft a fun adventure world, and they did it without having to make the story too much like Inside Out, which for me was one of my bigger worries.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was the depiction of certain abstract concepts, like how they portrayed what it is like to be in the zone; they made it like a transcendental experience levitating in a beautiful purple glow. A wonderful display of talent on the part of their animation team.

I would argue Soul is the beginning of a new chapter for Pixar. A return to the golden age we grew up with in the late 90s and early 2000s is unlikely, but I believe Pixar is becoming a more mature production company and so they figured the content should mature as well. Perhaps the writers intended the afterlife world in Soul to be colorful and mystical for the young viewers and the real world in Soul to be relatable for the older audience.

With this film, Pixar has somehow created a more adult-friendly picture while simultaneously holding on to the magical elements of children’s movies the company had built a legacy on.