Huzzah! This is officially the 365th ‘First Watch’ of the year. That means I’ve watched one movie that I’ve never seen before for each day in 2020. How did I do that? Well, if you didn’t know, the UK has been in lockdown and tiers galore, so obviously I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands. At least there’s one positive to come out of this pandemic, I guess? Sadly, though, that means there’s relatively little chance of me beating this target in 2021… Ah well, you can’t win them all.
Firstly, I’d like to preface the 365th movie of the year with the fact that some people are really pissed off with Soul. Chiefly, it’s seen as quite problematic that once again an African American animated character is removed from his own body and turns into an animal, very much like in The Princess & the Frog. I absolutely hear that frustration, and would never dream of trying to excuse that. This review, then, will focus solely on the narrative and the message behind the film, and the technical achievements made within it.
Soul is the cinema release that never was. That’s right, COVID-19 struck once again, pushing Disney to put their latest movie straight on Disney+. Unlike Mulan however, Disney bosses made the film free to subscribers, rather than charging an extortionate sum to rent it. Good choice, lads. The film itself focuses on Joe Gardner; a struggling jazz musician and New Yorker, who suddenly falls to his death one day when he drops down a man-hole. Instead of going to the ‘great beyond’ however, Joe finds himself in the place where souls are ‘training’ before they come to earth to be born. When he is mistaken for a mentor, he is assigned a troubled soul with the number ’22’, and it becomes his mission to find 22’s purpose on earth and finally make sure she is sent to live a real life.
Could this be the first Pixar movie that’s more for adults than kids? I’d say so. Others have pointed out that kids may be bored by this movie, and whilst I’m not sure that’s entirely true, one could argue that this is actually an animated Pixar movie for adults anyway. It certainly felt that way.
Inevitably, Soul will be compared with Inside Out due to its deep and meaningful subject matter. I get that to a degree, but to bind them together like that would be an injustice. They’re both brilliant in different ways, and I’d actually say this is the funnier of the two, and whilst they both deal with pretty hard-hitting topics, this is much more about the meaning of life and existential crisis than thoughts and feelings. I told you it was a movie for adults.
Pixar really outdid themselves with the originality of the animation in this one too. Specifically, the You Seminar sequences have some good Into the Spider-Verse vibes and utilise a bunch of different styles that you don’t usually see in a Pixar film. The inclusion of some strong links to African American culture is also brilliant to see, and the use of jazz music as a catalyst for the film is particularly wonderful.
Every single voice actor does excellent work here too. They all bring something unique to each character, and when they’re funny, they’re really funny. Rachel House (The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok) stood out the most in terms of comedic value, whilst Jamie Foxx brings exceptional voice talent to the leading man. By the end, you’ll feel as though you really know Joe Gardner, and that’s all down to Foxx himself.
Superb soundtrack and a heartfelt message with extremely strong visuals. Though it didn’t make me cry, I truly loved it.
Alas, there’s a simple solution here. Remove Tina Fey, replace her with Leslie Jones. Or Tiffany Haddish. Or even Kevin Hart. Basically, anyone who isn’t a middle aged white woman and has some comedic prowess. You have to appreciate that Pixar should have done better on that front, and despite having an African American man co-directing, it’s just as if the problematic nature of having Fey play this character passed them by completely.
Despite this misgiving, I will re-iterate: the below ratings are in regards to the movie itself in spite of this questionable .
Soul is available to stream (for free to subscribers!) on Disney+ in the UK.
TQR Category Ratings:
Costume & Set Design:
Plot: (It’d be a 5 if the main character’s body wasn’t possessed by a white woman for the majority of the run time.)
Overall Enjoyability Rating: