Opening on the typicality of a middle-school music classroom, Pixar’s first African American protagonist Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), struggles to connect with his students. Having seemingly lost all enthusiasm for his passions in teaching and performing, an opportunity to play at the aptly named ‘Half Note bar’ presents a huge chance to reignite his spark and break into the jazz industry. You'd be forgiven for not wanting to sit through another 2 hours of monotonous rags-to-riches conventions.
However, an accidental separation of body from soul in a questionably pedestrian manner, and the subsequent transcendence to a stairway purgatory and dumping in ‘The Great Before’, allows introduction of the film's concept of 'soul', revitalising the viewer. Tasked with mentoring the infamous yet loveable 22 (Tina Fey), what follows is 90 minutes of pure joy, as Joe seeks a way back to reality, set against a mellow backdrop of Manhattan-infused jazz and sunset dreams.
The animation flows as decadently and celestially as the plot itself, with Pixar’s attention to detail sharp and eccentric as ever.
Complimented by a gorgeous soundtrack from Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (!!!), the animation flows as decadently and celestially as the plot itself, with Pixar’s attention to detail sharp and eccentric as ever. Augmenting each of the films predominant locations with charm, elegance, and the experienced maturity of refined and considered animation, director Pete Docter’s imagination seemingly explodes across the screen as Joe and 22 shoot between Earth and ‘upstairs’.
The cloud-like haven of ‘The Great Before’ is wonderfully fluffy, with ‘The Great Beyond’ a realm of sci-fi and unplausible infinity, contrasting the warm nostalgic punch of 1930’s inspired New York delightfully. Always visionaries, Pixar also piloted the use of line-drawings to represent the ‘Jerry’s’, 2-dimensional ‘soul counsellors’ and figures of authority used handily to provoke the weightiest emotional triumph at the films conclusion (not to mention one of them is unmistakably voiced by the ever-sardonic Richard Ayoade.)
Whilst billed as a movie ‘for kids’, Soul does so much more than provide a fun-filled 90 minutes
Graham Norton, Daveed Diggs and Angela Bassett also enjoy minor roles in a plot that’s simplicity provides welcome room for reflection and relaxation. Whilst billed as a movie ‘for kids’, Soul does so much more than provide a fun-filled 90 minutes, illustrating once more Pixar’s transition towards meaningfulness, and provoking genuine joy in its hopeful message that life is delightful. Rarely has death been explored with such whimsical congeniality, yet it is the assuring glee and jubilation of Joe’s changed outlook that shifts the narrative from a portrait of mundanity to a snapshot of happiness.
Rose-tinted spectacles it may possess, but Soul is a calming hug in a world bereft of kindness and certainty, a reminder to celebrate life’s small triumphs, and a celebration of individuality, enthusiasm, and positivity.
Soul is available to watch on Disney+ now.
Feature image credit: IMDb