LFF 2020: Soul – Review

Release Date – 25th December 2020, Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 37 minutes, Directors – Pete Docter, Kemp Powers

Music teacher Joe (Jamie Foxx) has just been given the chance to fulfil his dreams and play piano in a jazz club. However, after dying and trying to escape the afterlife he finds himself trying to get back to Earth with reluctant unborn soul Number 22 (Tina Fey) by his side.

Pixar are iconic for their colourful and imaginative worlds. With Inside Out they took this to another level by visualising elements of the mind such as lost memories and emotions while weaving them into an engaging story. With their latest venture, Soul, they manage to do even more of this. By looking into themes such as lost souls, people not sure as to where they are in the world and what people’s purpose in life actually is there’s a lot of deep themes to visualise within this latest feature.

And encountering all of these ideas and worlds is Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx), a music teacher and aspiring jazz musician. When given the chance of a lifetime to play piano at a jazz club he falls down a manhole while crossing the road and immediately finds himself travelling along a large conveyer belt to a bright light. His form has changed to a sort of multi-coloured blob, a mixture of blue, green, turquoise and more. It represents him on earth, his form is now his soul after all. Unwilling to enter the afterlife Joe falls off the track and finds himself in The Great Before – a place where souls are given their personalities before being sent to Earth to take human form.

It’s here that he meets soul Number 22 (Tina Fey). A small, childlike soul (who happens to sound like a middle-aged woman – a joke made in the film) who has wreaked havoc since day one. After going through various mentors who have tried to get the soul to unlock a final trait it’s no use. 22 doesn’t see the point of living if life just ends with death and returning to just soul form, not understanding why Joe wants to get back to his body so badly. Through this Pixar creates a deep thinking and mature film for all ages. They prove that there are such themes and ideas that can be tackled in a way that can be accessed by younger viewers as well as adults. All while managing to tell an engaging and humorous story at the same time.

Soul may not pack as much of an emotional punch as some of co-director Pete Docter’s other Pixar ventures, but there’s an authenticity within not just its story but its characters. Perhaps it comes from Kemp Powers (who also helped to co-write the film with Docter and Mike Jones), whose screenplay adaptation of his own play One Night In Miami also has a genuine sense to it. There’s a clear sense of care and detail that has gone into all elements of the film, into story, character, detail and more. Meanwhile, with Jon Batiste composing free-flowing jazz pieces for the scenes set in New York City and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross working on the score for scenes in the world of souls/ The Great Before. Never do the different ideas in either score clash or conflict with each other. They simply work hand-in-hand and help to emphasise the various elements and ideas of the story, and the differences between Joe and 22’s human experiences and life as simply as a soul.

There’s clearly a lot of effort that has gone into all aspects of the film, including the voice performances. The two leads clearly understand their characters and the internal emotions, and especially confusions, of them both. It simply makes for a mort heartfelt and engaging piece that connects more with the viewer as they become absorbed into the brightly-coloured, brilliantly animated (as is standard from Pixar) worlds. Visualising concepts that are difficult to think of a physical form for. It might not have the emotional punch, but there’s certainly a lot of detail within the story, animation and general ideas of the piece that this is still another high-quality and original piece from the ever-inventive minds at Pixar.

While not quite a tear-jerker there’s still a lot to enjoy within the heart, humour and care that’s poured into and emitted from Pixar’s latest. Finely animated and filled with detail Soul is another hit from the ever inventive and heartful studio.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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