Soul Review: A Moving Tale That Differentiates Living From Just Surviving

“What makes you, you?”

We hear animated feature film and the instant image we get is that of a goofy story, with silly characters designed for kids’ entertainment. And the perception does hold but only to an extent as Disney’s Pixar has been consistently churning wonder films that question this stereotype– like Inside Out, Finding Nemo, and now, Soul which is not only the first Pixar film based entirely on African-American characters but also makes you look at yourself closely to deduce whether you are really living or merely surviving from one day to another.

Hands down, the best Pixar movie ever (right up there, reigning the list with Inside Out), Soul is directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers and written by Docter, Mike Jones and Powers. The character that keeps the emotional core of the story intact is Joe Gardener, voiced by Jamie Foxx. Joe is a kind person but life hasn’t been easy for him or his dreams of making it big as a jazz player. He spends his days being the band teacher of a class of disgruntled teenagers while day-dreaming about one day getting the chance to live his ambitions. 

Luckily, Dorothea Williams (voiced by Angels Bassett)gets into a fix- her pianist ditches her a day before a major event and she needs someone asap. Well, lucky because Joe’s former student Curley, (Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson), a professional drummer, refers him to Dorothea and lands him an audition, which he clears with flying colors. He is beyond himself– his first gig in life as a pianist, he has finally done it!

But life, and in turn Soul, has funny ways of reminding us how fate works in mysterious ways as Joe, too lost in his excitement, gets into an accident. Before he can make sense of what is happening, he finds himself on route to the “white light.” Wanting to get the chance to live his lifelong dream at least once, he hops off the line and falls down a rabbit hole that brings him to a place called The Great Before where new souls are tutored to get new personalities and hobbies before they are transported to begin their life on Earth.   

Things go awry again and Joe finds himself with the duty of mentoring a braty new little soul, 22, (Tina Fey) who is unable to find her “spark” and comprehend all the hype around living on Earth. While she is proving impossible to control, Joe must help her as she might be her only chance to return to his life. But on the way, both come to realizations about the fragility of life, the baggage it comes with, and what living truly means. 

Apart from a few dips here and there that are completely forgivable, there is hardly anything that is not endearing and perfect about Soul. The animation, the voice work by Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, the set up of the very realistic looking New York City, and above all the hard-hitting story at its heart that takes twists even the most zealous filmgoer won’t see coming.  

But that so doesn’t mean that Soul isn’t a film for kids. It is insanely funny, has some truly witty gags, and is an absolute entertainer. But this Pixar star is one of those rarities that not only resonate with children but also packs in the ability to send the adults watching it on a major thinking spree.

And the major question that takes the limelight is whether having a passion is important or living a life is? Soul answers this beautifully- passion is necessary to lead a fulfilling life…until you end up making your passion your life and put aside all the small but crucial things that make it worth living.

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