by Tadhg Holder
For over 20 years, Pixar has been known for its incredible animation, as well as the many creative concepts that came out of it, such as Toy Story, Up, Monsters Inc. and more recently, Inside Out, which explores human emotions. So naturally, they would eventually cover the existential concept of the afterlife. The movie was called Coco, and it was critically-acclaimed, and a box office success, and in 2020, Pixar decided that it would further expand on the afterlife concept, with the movie Soul.
Soul takes place in New York City, revolving around Joe Gardner, a middle school band teacher and jazz musician who gets the gig of his lifetime, only to fall into a manhole and die. When he gets to the afterlife, he tries to escape so he can get back to his gig, ending up in the Great Before, a place where souls are created and sent to Earth. Joe spends the rest of the movie trying to get back into his body, accompanied by Number 22, an unborn soul who completely lacks interest in going to Earth.
The cast is star-studded with Jamie Foxx playing the main role of Joe Gardner, Tina Fey as Number 22 and even Angela Bassett as jazz musician Dorothea Williams, who offers Joe the gig. They all give excellent performances with moments that were incredibly moving and hilarious.
While the comedy in this movie is more scarce than in most Pixar movies, the jokes that exist are well-crafted, designed to make one chuckle while still preserving the tone. The movie contains a blend of kid jokes and adult jokes reminiscent of cartoons in the last decades. Not only that, but there is a wide variety of jokes, from cutaway gags, such as when they cut away to all the past famous teachers, such as Marie Antoinette, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and even Carl Jung, to a moment of meta humor, when Joe asks Number 22 why she sounds like, in his words, “a middle-aged white lady”, obviously referencing the fact that the actress playing 22 is Tina Fey.
The 3D animation is incredible, and it is worthy of the creative concepts of the movie. It complements them well, such as the concept of The Great Before where the souls are created before they go to Earth. They turned the feeling of being incredibly focussed, also known as “being in the zone” into an actual realm of existence called “The Zone”, which exists between life and death, and the concept of a lost soul, which is a soul that has become lost in its anxieties and obsessions, and therefore becomes disconnected from life. Moonwind, a spiritualist who functions as Joe’s spirit guide to getting back to life, explains that there is a thin line between passion and obsession which is why souls in the zone, and lost souls are in the same place, which is one example of the insightful and philosophical messages in the movie.
There is a plot twist in the movie, and it comes with a very important life lesson, so it won’t be spoilt here, but let’s just say, it’s a lesson that all people, including high school students need to hear. The movie Soul is something that the whole family can enjoy, and something that adults can not only have a good laugh at, but truly understand and relate to. Despite the fact that it does follow a formula, it makes up for it with memorable characters, a heartwarming story, creative worldbuilding, and incredible animation to bring it all together. Therefore, Soul gets four bobcats out of five, and is a definite must-see.