Film Review: “Soul”

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Pixar films have always intrigued me, mainly because they are great for both children and adults. Children can laugh at the silly characters in the Toy Story movies, while adults can ponder the deeper thematic tones that the films establish. However, when it comes to the Pixar movie “Soul,” I couldn’t help but notice the maturity of the film and the lack of anything explicitly “childish.”

Disney Pixar’s “Soul” earned high praise from both viewers and critics. Image courtesy of Disney Pixar.

“Soul” is an animated film about a middle school jazz teacher who finally gets a gig that can turn his music career around, but as he rushes back to his home, he plummets down a sewer and falls unconscious. Immediately, from that synopsis, the film hardly sounds like something for children, even though that is partially the target demographic for the film.

In fact, the film has probably the most mature themes and lessons than any other Pixar film I have seen. The ultimate lesson that the main character learns is extremely moving, but possibly for an older audience.

As the film progressed, I wondered whether or not I would enjoy this movie as a child. When I first watched “Inside Out,” a film very thematically similar to “Soul,” I was entertained by the bright animation and comedic moments the film created; however, when I returned to the film at an older age, I realized how complex its presentation and interpretation truly was. But with “Soul,” I don’t know how much it could keep a child entertained.

On a positive note, Jamie Foxx’s and Tina Fey’s exceptional voice acting as Joe Gardner and 22, respectively, truly captures the cynical and sarcastic emotions of their characters. The film overall has great plot development, and none of the dramatic moments ever feel forced.

What about the music? One small issue I have with the film is something my dad pointed out: the film doesn’t incorporate jazz to its advantage in the soundtrack. If you look at a film like Coco, the Latinx music is integrated throughout the character’s development while also maintaining an integral part of the background scenes.  

While jazz fuels the motivation of the main character in “Soul,” the music is rarely used, appearing only at the beginning and the end of the film. However, it becomes clear that jazz is really only a subtext in the overall message of the film, so it’s less a huge problem and more a missed opportunity.

Overall, I highly recommend “Soul,” and, even though it is an incredibly mature film in its themes, I think children will still find something to enjoy and even possibly learn.

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