Disney’s ‘Soul’ misses the mark

Benjamin Haylett, Arts & Leisure Editor

With the state of the movie industry as it is, movies are slowly being released at a less than steady pace through a variety of streaming services. For the most part, I can’t think of the last time that I saw a movie being heavily marketed by any major studio since the live action “Mulan” was released on Disney+ with an added charge at the end of the month.

Even in that case, I remember talking more about the added $18 that everyone was going to pay than the movie itself. That being the case, I was surprised that I was hearing very little about the latest Pixar film “Soul” when it was released last Christmas. The only reason that I wanted to see it in the first place was because the teaser trailer featured a song by one of my favorite bands, AJR. Considering that there was no added fee to watch “Soul,” I decided to give it a try.

“Soul” tells the story of a down-on-his-luck music teacher named Joe (Jamie Foxx) who gets into a serious accident the day of his big break. Although Joe is not killed, his soul is sent to “The Great Before,” an ethereal realm where new souls are assigned their personalities before they are sent to Earth. It is here that he meets soul number 22 (Tina Fey), a soul that has never found anything on Earth interesting enough to want to leave The Great Before. The two lost souls team up to help Joe return to his body, and in the process, they search for the meaning of life.

While this may seem like some heavy material to be covering in a children’s movie, I would respond to that objection by saying that this movie isn’t necessarily a children’s movie. While kids will definitely enjoy the fun characters and silly moments of the film, I argue that “Soul,” like the majority of Pixar’s back catalog, is a movie that just so happens to be animated. Instead of just appealing to the lowest common denominator, Pixar strives to make films that are appealing to all ages, without stooping so low as to include a few dirty jokes for the parents that will fly over the kids’ heads as their competitors often do.

Like “Inside Out” before it, “Soul” covers topics that are incredibly difficult for children and adults to wrap their minds around. Both films work as a stepping stone to have larger conversations that would be much harder to start without the aid of a story with engaging visuals and equally engaging characters.

All that being said, “Soul” is definitely one of the least compelling additions to the Pixar library. Not to say that the movie is poorly made or flat-out bad, but the bar that Pixar has set in the past demands only perfection, and “Soul” just doesn’t hit the mark. It is difficult to say that, because there is a great cast, beautiful art direction and execution, and a really killer jazz soundtrack that pulls the movie together. There is just an ineffable quality to “Soul” that makes it fail to stand out as brightly as it should.

With the disclaimer out of the way, I still highly recommend “Soul” to anyone who is a fan of Pixar’s work. As with any Pixar film, it’s sure to get you in the feels at one point or another, and I know that I felt very uplifted when the credits rolled. Your mileage may vary, but if you’ve got time to kill, you should give it a shot. Oh, and it comes with your Disney+ subscription, so you don’t have to pay any more money than you already do. Take that, “Mulan.”



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