“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” – LR Knost
If there is a single word to describe Pixar it is consistency. They have that thing, that intangible spark needed to not only make great content but to do so time and time again. From the first Toy Story in 1995 to Onward and now its most recent, SOUL, Pixar has released material that is seemingly all at once heartfelt, heartbreaking, profound and intellectually challenging. Their stories are universally relatable and looked upon with such admiration and are not only recognized nearly every awards season they are also loved the world over.
They create imagination in cartoon form that is not only stimulating for children and adults alike but they engage the contemplation of a life worth examining. They ask questions that engage both the mind and heart relating to man and woman without ever forgetting nor talking down to the younger people in the audience. The ones that still have an uncluttered, unsullied mindspace hindered only by their own imaginations. Pixar understands the magical possibilities of not just cinema but storytelling itself.
SOUL is its newest and quite possibly most extraordinary example of what Pixar is truly capable of achieving.
Jamie Foxx voices Joe, a middle-school band teacher just going through the motions of everyday life. In the back of Joe’s mind however is the dream he’s had ever since his dad introduced him to jazz when he was a child; he wants to make music his life beyond simply just loving it. He wants to make a living playing jazz and to be finally recognized with pride by his mother who sees Joe’s obsession with music as a distraction from a safe occupation with benefits. If Joe is the artistic soul in his family his mother is the pragmatic, down-to-earth money earner. She loves her son but believes his head has been in the clouds long enough. On the day Joe finally gets his big break he suffers an accident and finds himself on a literal escalator to the great beyond.
Determined to live out his dream, his very soul attempts to make it back to its body in time for his dream to finally be realized. He quickly learns this is easier said than done. He soon finds a loophole by becoming an unlived soul’s mentor. If he mentors this soul and takes its “ticket” to the world of the living he can find his way back. In his journey with his new headache/friend named mundanely, 22, together they discover life is anything but the awful, uninteresting thing they originally made it out to be. Through one another they can discover and rediscover the beauty of life, even in the moments small and fleeting.
Alongside Joe in his journey of the pre-afterlife is 22, voiced by Tina Fey. At first she is a spoiled, stubborn soul who is perfectly fine having never lived a moment of her predictable existence. Literally thousands have tried to get her to see the good things in life but none have succeeded. When Joe comes along she suddenly sees that not everything has to be a big moment followed by the boring in between. Oftentimes it’s the smaller moments that make life worth living and 22 is on the verge of finally discovering her spark.
Fey brings a liveliness to her character that is both lived in and childlike at frequently at the same moment. She is a soul that has existed for eons and yet maintains a complete sense of child wonderment. She bridges the gap between Foxx’s character who is stuck in life to the kind of person who can sit on a step and breathe in the moment, simply grateful to be alive with air in their lungs. Together they make an energetic team determined to find their purpose, however elusive it may prove to be.
It’s the age-old story of opposites attract. Joe has lived his life and wants to continue to do so. 22 is determined to never live a single second on Earth and will avoid it at all costs. If they join together maybe, just maybe, they can each find a way to be happy, although neither one realizes their happiness will likely be in the most unexpected of places. SOUL is a practice in finding the beauty in life, through moments and people alike. SOUL is finding beauty in the unpredictable, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder afterall.
SOUL is everything you want it to be. From inspirational to thought provoking, it’s a complete package of Pixar greatness. The characters are complex and relatable in their shortcomings and nuanced in their greatness. The animation is absolutely gorgeous and fully realized from the rebuilt New York to the completely made up pre-afterlife. This is a cinematic feast for the eyes, mind, and heart and should be experienced and relished for its message of finding every moment to be a gift that should be cherished and looked upon in fondness. SOUL speaks to the soul in all of us hoping to ignite something, if only for a moment.
Rated PG For: thematic elements and some language
Runtime: 100 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure
Starring (Voice): Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Alice Braga
Directed By: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers (Co-director)
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes. Streaming on Disney + Christmas, 2020.
Check out the trailer below:
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