Pixar’s latest animated gem, Soul, has made its way to Disney+, exhibiting the visual and storytelling quality you expect from this brilliant studio. Soul follows Joe, a jazz musician who is thrust out of his body and on a journey to guide a lost soul towards their passion, while also finding some new inspiration himself.
Pixar is a studio that excels at crafting stories that are meaningful and entertaining for all ages – and when it comes to Soul, they’ve done it again. There really is something in this story for everyone to grab onto. For the young ones, it’s cute and charming with some light humour and quirky characters to guide the way – then for older audiences it really does harbour a meaningful story with themes and ideas surrounding passion and finding meaning in life. It’s a multi-layered journey that sends the main characters through different stages of life, encountering a number of comedic and emotional scenarios. The way the writers balance the film to cater to that wide audience is brilliant, it never feels like it’s swaying to one side and ensures there’s value in it for everyone.
Now, getting meaning and thematic touches out of a narrative is one thing, but without enjoyment, it can only go so far. The story runs at a bit of a slower pace, especially in the first act – and despite picking up the speed a little, it never really feels like things get moving as fast as they should. I have no doubt the writers hit all the beats they were trying to hit, but it seems like it’s all just meandering through the beats and never picks up any sort of excitement. For the majority of the narrative I will say I was intrigued to see where things were going, but I can’t say I was fully entertained for much of it. The thematic beats were effective and the overall journey is one that is definitely touching and relevant in a lot of ways, but as far as being entertaining and wholly engaging, it just didn’t come across that way. It’s a bit of a shame, especially considering the writing talent behind it, but on the other hand it was never boring – it moreso just straddled that average line.
Visually, there’s no doubt Pixar is at the top of the food chain for their unbelievably stunning and lifelike animation. Every scene in this film, whether it’s on Earth or not is beyond beautiful to look at. Everything to the designs of the humans to the subtlety of the warm lighting shows the unrivalled attention to detail these animators put into their work. It’s adventurous and stylistic while also being very realistic at the same time.
Jamie Foxx leads the film as Joe, while Tina Fey accompanies him as 22, the soul Joe is guiding towards their spark. Their respective performances are great across each and every scene. Their interactions are touching and the way they bring out certain emotions through inflections in their voice is just brilliant. They both have their moments to shine where they deliver some quite touching dialogue that adds to the emotional resonance of the story. They also both bring a dose of that Pixar humour that caters to a wide range of audiences. Aside from the two of them, no other performances really stood out to where I can point them out. I don’t know if it’s a case of average performances or the narrative not giving them room to shine, but it’s something I noticed in hindsight.
In the end, despite being very hotly anticipated, Soul ended up being quite decent at best. It still features Pixar’s unrivalled animation, some strong lead performances and touching themes – but it fails to be entertaining beyond a few key moments. In terms of the meaning behind the story, the light humour weaved in and the various qualities people of all ages can take away from it, this film excels – but beyond that, it feels like it’s just meandering through to the conclusion rather than being wholly engaging the entire way through. Great for an easy family viewing, Soul has something in it for everyone!