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Pixar’s ‘Soul’ Is A Heartwarming Story That Feels Like A Return To The Classic Pixar Movies – Review

Disney Pixar’s Soul truly could not have come at a better time. The movie hits Disney+ tomorrow a.k.a. Christmas Day and will be available for every household to enjoy and if you’re alone because you can’t travel here’s to you! Although I would’ve loved to enjoy this movie in theaters, I’m glad I got to experience the magic safely from my own home.

It’s not often that we see Black-led animated films and although we are making strides with films like the Oscar-winning Into the Spider-Verse, Matthew Cherry’s award-winning Hair Love, and most recently Canvas by Pixar alum Frank E. Abney III, there is still much work to be done. It was refreshing to see a film led by a middle-aged Black man as Pixar’s first Black lead.

(Courtesy of Disney Pixar)

Pixar Animation studios’ Soul, features Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) as a middle school band teacher who believes his one goal in life is to play jazz music at a professional level. He gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town with legend Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). However, one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22 (Tina Fey), who has never understood the appeal of the human experience and due to that has never earned the ‘spark’ to transition to earth. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he discovers the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to watch the first 30 minutes of the movie and I knew within the first two minutes that I was already sold. When I was finally able to watch the film in its entirety, I can definitely say my initial thoughts were right. Within the first few minutes of the film they were able to establish Joe as fully realized character. The facial expressions Joe was giving when he was teaching his students and seeing them have a passion for Jazz were mind-blowing. This is one of Pixar’s best movies yet and although the film explores new territories the studio hasn’t explored before, it still has the familiarity of the some of the Pixar classics thanks to directors Peter Doctor and Kemp Powers (who also wrote Regina King’s directorial debut One Night in Miami). 

Joe and 22 in Soul
(Courtesy of Disney Pixar)

I want to say this movie had a similar effect on me like another Pixar movie, Onward. The reason why is because the movie sets you up thinking the theme and the messages are about one thing, then slowly reveals other thematic messages they wanted you to leave with by the end of the story. Yes, this story is about Joe’s journey, but it is also about 22’s journey to find her true spark. It’s through 22’s eyes that the team really shows off some of the simplest pleasures that many of us don’t take time the time to truly appreciate – and in a time like this when appreciating what you have rings true now more than ever – some of scenes we see with 22 are heart-warming and makes you want to just step back, try to look around, and just breathe.  Because 22’s soul has never lived, Joe is basically tasked to become her mentor until they find a way to get 22 back to The Great Beyond. 

Another element that was a highlight for me was the community itself. The first act of the movie we get to really explore The Great Beyond, but then we get to see New York City and although I’ve only been to to New York a few times, to me it felt authentic and it did something similar to Into The Spider-Verse. It made the whole world inclusive and it was organic, reflecting how those communities look. I’ve been growing out my hair for the past few years but I do go get an edge from time-to-time when I visit home and there is one particular barbershop scene that I enjoyed in Soul. It made me walk away thinking about how I talk to people I see on a day-to-day or weekly basis (pre-COVID and virtually of course). 

(Courtesy of Disney Pixar)

This movie does a great job of handling what some would consider adult themes such as death and questions like “what it means to live”. It truly is a testament to the writers on the breakdown of these questions and answers for all levels to comprehend, and resonate with you just as deeply. In retrospect, this might be one of Disney Pixar’s most mature movies yet. Although everybody can relate to this film in one way or another, for me being a Black man (although I’m not a musician), I would consider myself an artist, I felt like I was definitely able to connect with Joe on a different level. I feel the same will ring true for middle-aged men and other adults who might be in the same predicament or have experienced similar highs and lows to Joe in one form or another. Although Joe is voiced by the legendary Jamie Foxx, a lot of the character is based on director Powers himself.

Overall, I could not be more excited for families to get to see Soul! It’s an emotional and heart-warming story that all levels will be able to appreciate in one way or another. Pixar has another hit on its hands with Soul, and hopefully this paves the way for more Black leads in Disney and Pixar films.

Check out First Cut’s SPOILER Review

Soul begins streaming exclusively on Disney+ on December 25th!

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