Pixar has an incredible track record when it comes to animated films. It’s difficult to say which Pixar film is the best because so many of them are so exceptional. When a new Pixar film releases, the bar is set so high that if it’s not perfect it can be seen as a disappointment. That’s the case with Soul, the latest release from Pixar. Join us as we take a closer look in our Soul movie review.
Over the last few years Pixar has made a concerted effort to broaden the demographics of their films. Coco featured primarily Hispanic cast and themes, and Soul continues that push with a focus on African-American themes. To be specific, Soul has a heavy focus on jazz music and the Black people who create it.
Leading the way in Soul is Joe (Jamie Foxx), who is a band teacher dreaming of being a famous jazz musician. He’s a fairly normal guy who hasn’t had the best luck in his career, but is loved by his family and students. When Joe has a terrible fall he ends up in the afterlife where he meets 22 (Tina Fey) a soul who has yet to find that special something that will allow her to make the journey down to Earth.
Soul checks all of the boxes you’d expect from a Pixar movie. It has a genuine and loveable main character, a comedic yet juvenile companion character, and a few ancillary characters who are whacky and fun. On the surface it’s a fun and entertaining film, but you can dive deeper into Soul to find meaningful themes that almost anyone can relate to. There’s just nothing remarkable about the film.
In a vacuum, Soul is an above average film. However, when compared to other Pixar films, it’s hard to say it even falls in the top 10. That’s not a knock on Soul, but more about the high bar Pixar has set with films such as Toy Story, Up, Finding Nemo and more. Soul doesn’t really pull at your heart strings like Toy Story or Up, and it isn’t seeped in culture like Coco. Instead, Soul just does what it needs to do to hit all of the Pixar check mark boxes. It feels as though Soul does the bare minimum to be a Pixar film, without going out of the way to become anything more than slightly above average.
None of this is to say that Soul is a bad film. The characters are fun and full of life, with Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey doing a great job bringing their respective characters to life. At the same time, nothing about Soul is memorable. There’s no cute WALL-E robot, or an opening sequence from Up that sticks with you well after the credits roll. Soul is a fairly general story about appreciating what you have and not taking life for granted. It’s been done countless times in the past, and Pixar hasn’t done anything to elevate Soul above all of the other similarly themed films.
At the end of the day, Soul is good but nothing exceptional. Even for a Black man such as myself, nothing about Soul stood out and make it truly memorable. There were shades of my dad in Joe, but not enough to really make me connect with the character like many other Pixar main characters. Soul does what it needs to do to be a decent film, but it never reaches the heights of the best Pixar movies, not even close.
Synopsis: A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.
Directors: Pete Doctor, Kemp Powers
Writers: Pete Doctor, Mike Jones, Kemp Powers
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Runtime: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes