Length: 106 mins
Director: Pete Docter
Writer: Kemp Powers, Mike Jones
Voices by: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Angela Bassett, Alice Braga, Questlove, Graham Norton, Rachel House
Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
What is it that makes you... YOU? Have you ever wondered where you got your big personality from? Can you attribute it to genetics or your parents? Director Pete Docter (who gave us Inside Out and Up) wants us to sit up and think of the big question: “Why do we exist?”
In Soul, Docter takes us to the familiar streets of New York, where old soul Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is dreaming of becoming a famous jazz pianist one day. Due to pressure from his mum, a tailor, who only wants him to have a stable career, he cast his passion aside and accepted his role in society as a middle school band teacher.
But when he was presented with an opportunity to play alongside famous jazz legend Dorothea Williams (voiced by Angela Bassett), he immediately jumps at the chance, but his luck soon runs out – Gardner meets with an accident and falls into the otherworld, where he befriends a spunky, not-yet-born soul 22 (voiced by Tina Fey).
With his unfinished business – driven by his passion for making it big in the jazz world – Gardner hatches a plan with 22 to get back in the real world.
Now, I, for one, don’t think this film is suitable for kids at all. There is a sense of darkness when we watch Gardner enter the otherworld realm, plunge into several dimensions and finally entering the Great Before, where giggly, bubbly souls are being prepped and mentored before they fall into Earth. While the googly pastel-coloured souls make for cute characters that kids would love, the scenes that feature lost souls can be a little terrifying, coupled by some trippy new-age tunes dreamed up by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
And how would kids grasp the meaning of purpose and life? We don’t think so, too.
As we enter the back-half of the film, that’s when we see more uplifting scenes and the message the movie has been trying to tell us all along – which is the most unexpected, and un-Disney-like – about being too focus on your dream (which is blandly familiar to us on Earth).
Compared to Inside Out or even Coco – the latter which also looked at the journey of the afterlife – both films had moving, powerful messages; but I was particularly not convinced by the protagonist’s watered-down journey and understanding of the complexities of life.
The ‘heart’ of Soul can be attributed to the music – the movie’s treatment and respect to jazz as an art form, is felt throughout the film, and you can’t help but conjure memories from La La Land too. A scene in a Black barbershop also provides a familiar look at a cultural institution that wraps up the film nicely. We only wish there was more music.
Pixar’s best movies gave us some of the most memorable emotional-led twists and plots but leaving this movie behind didn’t tug at my heartstrings like I thought it would. Soul didn’t manage to tap into deeper emotions and explore the philosophy of human beings. I guess it wasn’t as soulful.