Pixar's Soul review

Disney Pixar's first feature-length film released exclusively on Disney+

By Mbulelo Maqungo
On January 4, 2021

Poster courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Studios


A lot of movies that come out of the studios of our favorite mega-corporate mouse tend to be passable stories that become nostalgic cornerstones of our youth, but Pixar’s Soul, released Christmas Day on Disney+, is actually a mature story for everyone that finds themselves just getting by.


Directed by Pixar veteran Pete Docter (Monster’s Inc., Up, and Inside Out), Soul follows Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle school band director who gets what he believes is the gig of a lifetime with one of his jazz idols (played by Angela Bassett) before getting injured and finding his titular soul on the path to The Great Beyond.


Instead of allowing himself to go into the light, Gardner manages to stumble into The Great Before, a really profound and creative realm where new young souls are gifted personalities before being born. While attempting to return home, Gardner meets and forms a bond with 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), a strikingly indifferent spirit who wants nothing to do with life. Both protagonists stumble through believable challenges that really endear them to people who have dedicated their life to a hobby or craft.


This movie is a love letter to music lovers and even supernatural sci-fi fans who like wholesome films geared toward families. The movie’s cinematography, lighting and animation are all heavily influenced by the Jazz music genre and culture, more specifically the cultural influence of the broader Black community in the United States. It’s clear that Docter and the rest of the writers and animators went to painstaking lengths to portray African Americans in a more holistic and realistic way. Whether it was the realistic depictions of Black hairstyles or even Joe Gardner’s mother using a blue Royal Dansk cookie container for her sewing supplies like literally every mom I’ve ever met, the thoughtfulness of the team here is plain to see.


Like a lot of family movies, you’ll find the director attempted different types of humor to appeal to as many demographics as possible, some of which are not delivered concisely enough to be appealing. I point all this out to prepare you for some of the slapstick or tongue in cheek moments falling short for some people. The middle of the movie in particular feels oddly paced compared to the beginning and ending.


22 and Gardner’s arc start at different points that are equally as far from the movie’s themes as you can get, but Soul does an admirable job showcasing their story in a way that will be incredibly familiar to adults both young and old and inspiring for the little ones who haven’t quite found a passion yet. Pixar is known for making movies that adults can moderately enjoy and kids adore, but Soul is a movie with a decent runtime that seems to be speaking more to the adult audience members than to the children, and after a bleak year like 2020, perhaps that message can offer more than a rose-tinted perspective in the years to come. Soul isn’t a movie for everyone, but if you haven’t watched it and are looking for one more feel-good movie to move past the holiday atmosphere, I recommend it.


Score: 8/10

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