Pixar Delivers More of the Same (Ridiculously Good) with ‘Soul’
Every time I review a Pixar film I feel like a broken record – “somehow, this one is even better than the last,” “Pixar continues to get better,” “they’ve managed to raise the bar yet again,” etc., etc.
But here we are, with ‘Soul’ set to drop on Disney+ tomorrow (Christmas Day) and the best things I can think of to say about it are: “somehow, this one is even better than the last,” “Pixar continues to get better,” “they’ve managed to raise the bar yet again,” etc., etc.
In Disney and Pixar's "Soul," a middle-school band teacher named Joe finds himself in The Great Before—a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22, to show her what's great about living. Featuring Tina Fey as the voice of 22, and Jamie Foxx as the voice of Joe Gardner, "Soul" will debut exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) on December 25, 2020. (© 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.)
In ‘Soul,’ Joe (Jamie Foxx) is a middling jazz pianist who moonlights as a part-time middle school band director …or perhaps it’s the other way around). One day, shortly after receiving an offer to turn his teaching side hustle into a full-time career, Joe gets the opportunity of a lifetime – an audition to join a popular jazz quartet.
After nailing his audition, an excited and distracted Joe heads for home. That combination ultimately leads to Joe’s downfall, or his salvation (depending on how you look at it), by way of a tragic accident.
That accident leaves Joe in a mysterious place called The Great Before, where he crosses paths with 22 (Tina Fey) – a stubborn infant soul he is to mentor until she is ready to go to earth. The two hatch a scheme that will allow both to continue their status quo – Joe back in his body living his life, and 22 living out eternity in the comfort of The Great Before.
In Disney and Pixar's "Soul," Joe Gardner (voice of Jamie Foxx), a middle-school band teacher in New York City, makes one small misstep and ends up in The Great Before, a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. There, he meets Terry (voice of Rachel House), who is charged with the singular duty of keeping track of the entrants to The Great Beyond. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (voice of Tina Fey) to show her what's great about living. Directed by Academy Award® winner Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers and produced by Academy Award® nominee Dana Murray, p.g.a., "Soul" will debut exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) on December 25, 2020. (©2020 Disney/Pixar. All rights reserved.)
In terms of story, ‘Soul’ is quite easily in my upper echelon of Pixar stories, alongside ‘Up,’ ‘Inside Out,’ and ‘Toy Story.’ Its prevailing messages of finding your passion, embracing life and living it to its fullest are not only good lessons for children, but handy reminders for those of us a bit older. At this point, I shouldn’t view Pixar’s ability to tell a story that appeals and applies to young and old alike as a novelty, but no matter how many times it happens it impresses me – since most other studios appeal to one and pander to the other.
That “upper echelon” I spoke of earlier has one major thing in common across all titles – writer/director Pete Docter, who has writing credits on all four and a directing credit on all but ‘Toy Story.’ When looking at his writing, directing and producing credits, Docter’s résumé is remarkable and his storytelling – and that of his teams – gives each film its own distinct feel, while maintaining a sense of familiarity. ‘Soul’ is no exception to that.
It might a little “rinse, wash, repeat” at this point when heaping praise on Pixar, but it’s a whole lot easier when it’s earned.
★★★★★ of ★★★★★
Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic and the owner of www.ManVersusMovie.com.