It has been something of a strange time for Pixar in recent years, with their output in the last couple arguably not re-capturing their incredible work from the earlier years. Onward, their most recent back at the start of the year, was one of the first films to sadly suffer from the continued pandemic issues, whilst Toy Story 4, while enjoyable, for many was perhaps one film too far. Now, as this crazy and unprecedented year draws to a close, their new film, Soul, is about to be unleashed and its timing couldn’t have been better: definitely a film we need right now.
Soul tells the story of aspiring musician Joe (Jamie Foxx) – always one step away from fulfilling his dreams of being a jazz pianist but seemingly destined to spend his days as a music teacher, especially after his school offers him a full-time position. He breaks through, asked to be part of the ensemble for world-famous artist Dorothea (Angela Bassett), but after a bad fall, his soul is separated from his body and on the path to The Great Beyond. However, with the help of a young soul, named 22 (Tina Fey), he may be able to be reunited with his body before it’s too late as The Great Before.
The brainchild of Pete Docter (Inside Out) and Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami), Soul is one of the studio’s true shining originals, one that makes us remember why we fell in love with movies, animation and, well, life in general. Despite all of the ups and downs, back and forth and, let’s face it, devastation, in 2020, it’s remarkable how a film can make us feel hope again, make us believe, even for a few fleeting moments, that better days are on the way.
For this is a story about embracing ourselves, learning to love all those intricate, unique, unparalleled nuances and ticks that make us, individual and wholly original. We all have hopes and dreams, beaten down more than we deserve while still striving towards what we want to accomplish, but those knocks, those kicks, however hard, are exactly what makes us who we are and through its vibrant, energetic, and beautiful surroundings and narrative, Soul celebrates everything about what makes us human. Fuelled by a jazzy, effervescent, and unforgettable score from Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor – taking a break from their usual darker fare – and two brilliant lead turns from Foxx and Fey, both absolutely electrifying, there is nothing like Soul.
Unequivocally Pixar, its artistry is only matched by its touching and witty story that at times makes you scratch your head as to just how they pulled off something so beautiful and transcendent. It won’t be for everyone – it does go to some very strange places that might not penetrate smaller hearts and minds like, say, Monsters Inc or Coco – but this is pure, unadulterated, barnstorming Pixar at their very best, just when we needed them most.
Animation, Fantasy | USA, 2020 | PG | Disney+ | 25th December 2020 | Disney- Pixar | Dir.Pete Docter, Kemp Powers | Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Angela Bassett, Rachel House