What is the meaning of life? Is a life unfulfilled a life worth living? Is there more awaiting us after death?
You would be forgiven for assuming that this is the opening line of a meditation mantra, but these are actually the questions posed by Pixar’s latest release, “Soul”.
The story follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a middle aged music teacher with the unfulfilled dream of become a jazz performer. His big break finally arrives in the shape of a gig with esteemed saxophone player, Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). Disaster strikes when his excitement to get home and causes an accident which untethers his soul from his body. The opportunity of a lifetime is in danger of passing him by unless he is able to convince an unwilling soul by the name of “22” (Tina Fey) that life is worth living.
The title of the film is a clever double entendre for the ascension to the spiritual realm and the warmth associated with the Black culture. It is clear throughout that efforts have been made to make sure that this goes beyond just being a witty-pun. Kemp Powers, co-directed and co-wrote the script (with Pete Docter) and his influence is felt in every part of the film. The glisten of black skin under spotlight, the unmistakable texture of an Afro, the authenticity of the conversations in a barbershop. None of it feels forced and that’s testament to the inclusion of people with real lived experience of these scenarios and feelings.
Soul is perhaps guilty of being over-ambitious. When walking into the theatre the first thought that crossed my mind was “there needs to be children in here”, upon leaving I felt relieved that there weren’t any present. Pixar has forged a reputation for tackling heavy themes (bereavement, depression, etc) with films like “Up” (2009) and “Inside Out” (2015), but Soul feels a bit too forthright with its delivery. Through all of the animation wizardry and humour, it lacks the deftness we’re used to seeing from Pixar when it comes to making complex themes palatable for young audiences.
Packed with laughter, heart and a generous portion of existential angst, Soul is a film for adults with child-friendly humour when perhaps the opposite would have been more fitting.
The film will be going straight to the Disney+ streaming service and will be available from December 25th.
Rating: 3.5 Out Of 5 Barz
As Usual Comments Are Encouraged!
Also Check Out Another Post I Wrote On This Film! Why Pixar’s Soul Is A Watershed Moment For Black Animation