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Disney Pixar "Soul" Review (2020)


Despite some setbacks, this film is a beautiful exploration of what it means to have a purpose and be human.

This is not solely a black jazz tale, though it was very much advertised to be. This a story questioning ontological themes such as purpose and predestination, one which utilises Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) as a backdrop in which such themes are explored. If you go in solely expecting Joe’s tale to be richly developed and explored, you may be disappointed.

Though the exploration of the aforesaid ‘ontological’ is not uncommon to Pixar films, as evidenced in other pieces such as Coco (2017) and Inside out (2015), I think the way it is explored in Soul puts this film at a disadvantage in comparison. For example, on a narrative level, a tale starting with Joe, the middle-aged average, aspiring jazz artist (who we automatically root for), quickly turns into an exploration of the Great Beyond, which Joe accesses in a very arbitrary, cartoonish way. Joe’s touching, human tale is interrupted to give space to an animated, comedic action. In many ways, this film feels like a competition between the two tensions of Pixar; the heart-warming humanness we have grown to associate the studio with and the fast paced action that somewhat abuses our spectatorship, or as Kambale Campbell puts it in his review, reveals “a lack of trust in the audience’s attentiveness” to Joe’s story.

So why the high review despite this glaring setback?

Because I really felt this film. The competing tensions affected the pace and coherence of this film, but its beautiful message was still conveyed in a way that at times felt other-worldly. The animation was breath-taking in its realism; the detail to Joe’s fingernails, the richness of beards and hairstyles, the blended, connected lines which made up the God-like “Jerry” figures. Pixar hit the mark again with this animation style.

Also, the idea of a Great Before (what happens before you were born) is one I haven’t seen much cinematic exploration on and Joe as an ordinary, adult man (though with a personal passion), fits well with moral at the end.

This movie was one which begged to be felt, and I think it made us feel.

What are your thoughts? This heart-warming film is available to stream on Disney+.

Article by Nosa Novia

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