After ‘Coco’ and ‘Inside Out’, Pixar comes out with another heart-warming watch that deals with myriad philosophical concepts.

Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) playing piano for an audienceFacebook/Soul
Flix Review Tuesday, December 29, 2020 - 18:55
Worth a watch

Pixar’s latest animation film Soul addresses some perennially troubling, existential questions through its 106-minute run time. The film upholds Pixar’s penchant for dealing with the metaphysical world as seen in its previous films. The film is a new addition to the body of work of directors Pete Docter and Kemps Power at the studio.

Soul opens in a cacophonous classroom full of middle school children trying to play jazz and their discontented teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx). The passionate teacher had always aspired to be a jazz player like his late father but couldn’t because his seamstress mother (Phylicia Rashad) wanted him to have a stable job.

Soul, unlike Coco – Pixar’s earlier film that was based on the Festival of the Dead celebrated in Mexico and dealt with the afterlife – deals with the Great Before, a place where life originates.

On his death Joe finds himself in the Great Beyond, the afterlife. He tries to go back on Earth, but his plans fail when he lands up in the Great Before. He now has to mentor 22 (Tina Fey), a bratty new soul who is cynical about life on earth. She has spent an eternity annoying everyone but the Jerrys (Wes Studi, Alice Braga and Richard Ayoade), the cheery counsellors who have infinite patience to deal with her quirks. In contrast to the Jerrys, the metaphysical realm has Terry (voiced by Rachel House), an unpleasant ‘accountant’ of souls.

You cannot crush a soul here, that’s what life on Earth is for,” 22 says, which resonates with Joe. All his life he worked at a job he did not want, and his life was cut short hours before his big break with Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett), a celebrated Saxophonist.

22 agrees to help Joe find his way back to earth while he promises to help her skip life. Abstractness is added to the mix with an area called the Zone, a space where lost souls wander. There Joe meets the eccentric Moonwind (Graham Norton), an entertainer from New York, who helps him get back to earth.

In the imbroglios that ensue through the journey, Joe and 22 teach each other valuable lessons. Be it appreciating a mild breeze caressing your face or savouring the warmth of the sun on a cold morning, Soul urges us not to take these little things for granted.

The etherealness of Soul is balanced by the urban landscape of New York. The vivid and detailed descriptions of the city, its chaos and the order within the chaos takes the hyperrealism of the film a notch higher. Jazz, another prominent component of the film, is integral to the city of New York and the lived experiences of African Americans. The film rightly encapsulates the essence of how art is created, retained and revelled in forever by adding the element of jazz.

The screenplay, co-written by Mike Jones with the directors, elucidates the otherworldly from the lucid realms of the film. But one does feel that the film would have been more enjoyable with a tighter script.

Soul is the first Pixar film with a Black lead and instead of portraying formless green blobs as souls, it’d have been better if they had explored Joe, his life, his background and culture instead.

Even though the film doesn’t hit the perfect note, it does make for a heart-warming watch on a winter’s day. Soul is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.


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