Soul (2020)

Is all this living really worth dying for?

https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/soul/77zlWrb9vRYp

Joe Gardner is a middle school teacher with a love for jazz music. After a successful gig at the Half Note Club, he suddenly gets into an accident that separates his soul from his body and is transported to the You Seminar, a center in which souls develop and gain passions before being transported to a newborn child. Joe must enlist help from the other souls-in-training, like 22, a soul who has spent eons in the You Seminar, in order to get back to Earth.

Out of my Top15: Most Anticipated Movies of 2020, eight were removed from this year's schedule due to the current global pandemic, so I didn't have that many films for which I felt incredibly excited. I love pretty much everything that Pixar puts out, and at the start of 2020, I noticed that the studio was releasing not one but two original animated movies, something quite uncommon in their history (only happened in 2015 and 2017). Onward was yet another success, but everyone knew Soul was the studio's big gun. December release date means better chances to win an Oscar, and the highly anticipated return of Pete Docter (Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out) to the director and writer's chairs also elevates the film's expectations.
I'm no different. My expectations were high as the sky, but the main question in my mind wasn't really if Soul was going to be a great movie, but if it would be so good I'd love it more than Wolfwalkers, my favorite animated flick of the year so far? Well, let me write that it's a wonderful, beautiful, heartwarming tie. I love them both very much, and I wouldn't be surprised if I saw them in my Top10. However, this is Soul's spotlight, so let me get to it, and spit out the only minor issue I have with the film. During the first act, I couldn't feel a connection to the story nor the characters. It took me a while to really get fully invested in the narrative, and even technical aspects such as the animation style and the score (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross) felt weirdly out-of-place and surprisingly not that enthralling.
Nevertheless, this slow, unconvincing beginning doesn't negatively impact the movie overall, as most of these apparently awkward components improve as time goes by. From the moment it clicked with me, I went on that emotional rollercoaster I always expect to ride in a Pixar feature. The studio is known for its extremely heartfelt, shocking, tear-inducing third acts, and even though Soul isn't an exception to that rule, it's far from being one of those mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, devastating final minutes. Its third act is astonishingly emotional, and it sends a lovely message to the audience, one that made me reflect on the entire year and a specific moment in my life.
Pete Docter, Mike Jones, and Kemp Powers explore the taboo subject of life's meaning in a predictable yet profound and entertaining manner. The approach on philosophical questions like "what's my purpose?", "what's my spark?", or "what does it mean to have a soul?" is cleverly developed and very well-written. There's a sequence with the protagonist near the end that will make tons of viewers experience it simultaneously. I found myself rewatching this scene in particular to help me remember a certain period in my life where I realized that what I thought was my destiny was, in fact, just one of those life passions that leave us with unforgettable memories.
I was able to deal with that moment pretty well, but many people lose themselves once they figure out that what they thought they were meant to do/be isn't really what the future holds for them. They become lost souls, and only a spark of life can revitalize them. Soul explores this matter in such an authentic, genuine, creative way that I couldn't help but cry as I do in every Pixar film. Watching Soul will make you appreciate life a lot more, especially those tiny, little moments that we forget to remember. Living, with all its horrible phases, is the best life experience anyone can have. After a year of isolation and separation from the people we love, this movie arrives at the perfect time.
Technically, the animation style and score didn't convince me in the first few minutes, but by the end, they're part of the key aspects that made me cry like a baby. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross are starting to become two of my favorite composers (The Social Network, Gone Girl, Mank). Pete Docter proves that his undeniable talent behind the screen remains intact, and this time, he introduces Hollywood to the debutants Kemp Powers and Mike Jones. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey (22) deliver some terrific voice work, so expect them to receive dozens of nominations. Finally, congratulations to every single artist that worked on this film's animation. These gifted people are the real stars of Pixar.
All in all, Soul is everything I expected it to be. A classic Pixar feature, with the trademark emotionally powerful third act; a heartwarming, sweet, tear-inducing score; and a relatable, profound, well-explored story about our own soul and the meaning of life. Pete Docter delivers another award-worthy flick with the help of Kemp Powers and Mike Jones, and with the outstanding voices of Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey. It may start slow and follow a predictable path, but it's only a matter of time until every viewer connects with the main characters. Soul surpasses the barriers of cinema, becoming a healing media from which people can take away so, so much. It works seamlessly as a reflection on life, and as a motivation to truly live every single moment of it. It's the ideal movie to watch on the morning of Christmas Day with the entire family cozy and warm in the living room. I promise you: it will make you enjoy this festive season a lot more. Undoubtedly, one of the best films of the year.
Rating: A

Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar by Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones.
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House.

Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Music

Keywords: new york city jazz self-discovery jazz singer or musician musician teacher life after death

12/24/2020

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