Movie Review: Soul

Disney Pixar’s new movie “Soul” is unlike any other Disney movie I’ve seen thus far—in the best way possible. This is not to say that I don’t love a good Disney movie, but I found this one to be especially unique.

The story follows a struggling band teacher in New York named Joe Gardner. Joe is searching for a way to follow his dreams of performing jazz piano while dealing with feelings of unimportance. When he finally lands his first gig, his excitement causes his unexpected death. In something similar to the afterlife, his soul tries to find a way back to his body on Earth before he misses his big break. He is assigned to look after a lost soul named 22, who doesn’t have any passions or interest in going to Earth. Joe’s attempt to return to his body on Earth goes awry and he accidentally brings 22 along for the ride: while 22’s soul is transported into Joe’s body, Joe’s soul is transported into a therapy cat. The two set out on a quest to swap back. As the plot continues, both characters grow closer and find out what it means to be ready to face the world.

This animation was released on Dec. 25 as an adventure-comedy for the whole family. It was produced by Dana Leigh Murray and written by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers. It stars Jamie Foxx as the voice of Joe and Tina Fey as the voice of 22. The film was given a roughly $150 million budget. Docter, known for his work on the movie “Inside Out,” chose to make Joe a musician because he wanted the protagonist to have a “profession the audience would root for.” Docter had previously dismissed the idea of a scientist as it “[didn’t feel] so naturally pure as a musician’s life.” “Soul” is the first Pixar movie to feature an African-American protagonist and has received a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Throughout the film, I was astonished by the multitude of difficult topics that were so clearly explained and represented. For example, when Joe’s soul was separated from his body, it went into “The Great Beyond.” Then, before 22 was ready to have a life on Earth, they and the other new souls were depicted in “The Great Before.” The representation of different genders and identities and the racial representation in the film was something that I had not seen before and was excited to witness. These inclusive elements accentuate the core message of the story: the value of empathy rather than judgement. The idea of finding your life’s “spark” ties into the plot line of the film in a clever way. Joe’s life centers around his “spark,” music, while 22’s life centers around being “sparkless.” Character changes and development play an important part in the film. The film poses important questions about the meaning of life. I hope that these questions have a lasting impact on the viewer as the ending was especially powerful.

Overall, the storyline was an inspirational addition to the Disney Pixar franchise, and it earns a 4.5/5 star rating from me. It may make you question your existence, but it also provides you with some answers along the way.

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