Joe Gardner (Jaimie Foxx) has died. He was just about to finally get his big break as a jazz pianist, but he walked without looking where he was going just one too many times and has passed over to the other side. Unwilling to accept he has died just before his big break, he finds himself stuck in pre-life along with soul number 22 (Tina Fey) who refuses to begin her life on earth.
Pairing Joe, who is desperate to return to a life that has disappointed and challenged him greatly, with Soul 22, who is unimpressed by the good things life has to offer and afraid of its dangers, is a brilliant way to explore the value and meaning of life. Sequences in which characters learn about the supreme pleasures of day to day living. The film features a surprisingly sophisticated discourse on passion and purpose in which somebody’s greatest abilities can become burdens if they lose track of joy.
But this is a Pixar film so it’s not going to be two hours of philosophising and preaching. The film is also very funny. The cast is filled with excellent comedic talents. Foxx is brilliant in the lead, Fey is reliably perfect as the troublesome and stubborn spirit, a surprise turn from Graham Norton proves perfect
Pixar and Pete Doctor have been a little experimental with this one, taking chances on unusual elements you wouldn’t necessarily associate with Pixar’s films. The soundtrack is by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross with jazz compositions by Jon Batiste. The Reznor-Ross stuff really kicks in once we pass into the after life and their signature electronic sounds and intense rhythms are bizarre but wonderful. The soundtrack achieves the warmth and playfulness you’d expect for such a whimsical story but also an extraordinary sense of scale. This might be Pixar’s best soundtrack and that’s a very tough contest.
The animation achieves two distinct styles which are actually dozens of smaller styles. The earthbound sequences are the typical photorealistic, gorgeously textured world that Pixar have been perfecting for the last 30 years. On the other side we have perhaps their most adventurous animation to date. Bizarre concepts are realised in deceptively simple forms. A piece of the infinite becomes a 2d line drawn figure who moves in a three dimensional space. It’s a tremendous shame that Soul will soon be coming to Disney+ because this is perhaps their most cinematic effort yet.
Soul easily fits into the canon of high concept, family friendly Pixar films that make big and potentially troubling ideas palatable for younger audiences. It’s sure to be a profound experience for anyone who’s ever worried about their purpose or fought with their soul.