Pixar has done it again. ‘Soul’ is another animated full-length feature that can be enjoyed by both young audiences but it will strike a very different chord with older audiences, like myself, especially in this time of a pandemic. Why? Because this incredibly detailed and nuanced film dares to explore the nature of existence with the same clarity that Pixar has navigated the textures of our emotions, like in ‘Inside Out,’ also directed by Pete Docter.
With co-director Kemp Powers, they take the middle school band teacher Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), who dreams of making it big playing jazz, into the afterlife after he accidentally meets his end after scoring the gig of a lifetime. In a mad dash to get back to his life, Joe Gardner must skirt around the bureaucracy of the afterlife and the pre-life of souls to finally accomplish his lifelong dream. In the process, he meets 22, a precocious soul (voiced by Tina Fey) who has no interest in going to the world and live.
And as much as ‘Soul’ succeeds in imagining what lies beyond the corporeal world — including intricately composed music by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor to really highlight the otherworldly-ness of this aspect of existence and creative use of cubism and surrealism to design the beings that populate the bureaucracy of this realm — it truly shines on how it depicts the real world.
If anything, ‘Soul’ revels in the nuances and little details of life. It is vivid in its depiction of New York in the sphere of Joe Gardner’s life. As a black man, it celebrates their spaces and portrays them as warm and vibrant; very far removed from the way it is usually depicted in the films I’ve seen. As a person who has never been to the United States, to see black lives and culture so lovingly featured in an animated film really brings me so much joy, to understand an aspect of their lives I am so far removed from.
And in this grand adventure that Joe and 22 embark on — one in an effort to return to living and the other in trying to find a reason to live in the first place — ‘Soul’ wrestles with the many sides of the debate on what it is we are meant to do here on this planet. It is generous in showing the repetitive humdrum of daily life as much as it shows the epic highs of what life can entail.
As Joe’s and 22’s journey brings them from the world beyond and the real world, Docter and Powers are sure to capture all the little details of human behaviour and action. It settles comfortably in the reactions of people, in the little nuances of their relationships. It is unafraid to find the beauty in the chaos of a city as bustling as New York while still finding moments savor the little things that makes it so wonderful as it can be overwhelming.
And while Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor provides a wonderful musical score for the beyond, the real world is made even more intricate with the music of Grammy nominated Jon Batiste, who sets the jazz music to synch with the pulse of New York life, or at least how I’d imagine it to be.
Pixar has truly done it again. There’s enough here for young audiences to enjoy and to make them look forward to in a life they’ve yet to fully grasp, while 40-plus year olds like me will find themselves crying before the sheer beauty of this film. Pixar really has done it again.
Disney and Pixar’s Soul opens in select Philippine cinemas located in MGCQ areas on December 25, 2020. The film will also debut exclusively on Disney+ (where Disney+ is available) on December 25, 2020. Follow Disney Philippines on Instagram and Walt Disney Studio Philippines on Facebook for more updates.