4 out of 5 stars (one of the best of the year)
Note: I asked a family friend with young children about Soul, and the results varied. The youngest (4) got bored and left while the two older (7 and 10) enjoyed the goofy moments, but were stymied by the human drama and somewhat scared by the climax, with neither understanding the film’s larger point. Their parents enjoyed it. My entire family was entertained as well.
Soul is the first Pixar movie aimed primarily at adults. Despite the plushy character designs and slapstick-heavy ads, its story, themes, and characters will resonate with older audiences more than children. Much of Pixar’s output in the 2010s targeted my generation over the current one, and Soul absolutely fits that bill. For adults, Soul is a funny, emotional, and life-affirming notch in Pixar’s belt that plays out 2020 on a high note.
Joe Gardiner (Voiced by Jamie Foxx) is a middle school band teacher who dreams of becoming a jazz musician. After landing a gig with a prominent player, Joe falls down a drain and ends up as a blobby soul in The Great Before, a place where new souls are assigned personalities before going to Earth. After bumping into the sardonic 22 (Voiced by Tina Fey), Joe races to find a way back home so he can play his gig, starting a life-changing adventure for both.
Soul is as visually breathtaking, well-acted, and creative as most of Pixar’s efforts and balances its mature themes with plenty of levity. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey are a strong double act (with the latter also having punched up some of the dialogue) and the visual look of the afterlife is distinctive. Some parents have told me the film lost their kids’ interest (who could have guessed most young-ins aren’t enthralled by subplots about careers and the search for ones’ purpose), but I applaud Pixar for taking this risk and hope they’ll take more like it in the future. Despite a slight middle-act drag, the story and characters kept my attention and the ending left me in need of a tissue box.
Soul may resonate more with adults than their children, but for said adults, it should serve as a funny, heartwarming, and life-affirming end to the year (or start to the new one). The best part? It’s available to watch for free from the comfort of your couch via a DisneyPlus subscription. I’d absolutely recommend Soul.
Rated PG for Thematic Elements, Mild Language, and Action