It doesn’t always cohere with a creative concept that sometimes overreaches, but this is Pixar at its most existential, exploring the meaning of life at the crossroads of passion, purpose and living.
Dir. Pete Docter & Kemp Powers
2020 | USA | Animation / Adventure / Comedy | 100 mins | 2.39:1 | English
PG (passed clean) for thematic elements and some language
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Angela Bassett
Plot: A musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.
Awards: Nom. for 3 Oscars – Best Animated Feature, Best Sound, Best Original Score
Subject Matter: Moderate – Existence, Life and Death, Passion, Purpose
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Mainstream
Viewed: In Theatres
From Pete Docter comes his fourth feature film with Pixar called Soul. This is after Monsters, Inc (2001), a sentimental favourite of mine; Up (2009); and what I feel is his best work to date, Inside Out (2015).
Truth be told, Soul will resonate with adults more than young kids, with deep themes that explore the meaning of life, death and the concept of souls.
In the film, souls are cutesy little blue things that scurry around in the Great Before, hoping to earn their complete Earth Pass to be born with a body, while many others—old souls—wait for their turn to enter the Great Beyond, possibly a life after death.
Joe is a band teacher living a middling life until a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in a jazz quartet comes his way. But he suffers a critical injury prematurely, inconspicuously falling into a manhole.
“Don’t worry, they’re fine. You can’t crush a soul here. That’s what life on Earth is for.”
Pixar has matured over the years (its key filmmakers are also more than 20 years older now), so it is not a surprise that Soul is their most existential effort to date.
Dealing with the crossroads of passion, purpose and living, it asks of us to remember how to live, and not just simply exist. Passions and purposes may provide the spark to one’s life, but the true spark is to live, to connect with our loved ones, so that the pursuit of our passions may give us a fulfilling, purposeful life.
The animation is, of course, top-notch, but its creative concept sometimes overreaches and doesn’t always cohere—I find the extended segment of ‘body-swapping’ in terms of voicework a bit of an overkill.
But don’t get me wrong, Soul’s a good movie, and emotions do creep up on you unexpectedly. Plus, composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross lend their unique sound to animation for the first time.