Disney+ entered the holiday gift giving arena this year with the release of the Disney-Pixar movie, “Soul.” Unlike “Mulan,” “Soul” was released for basic subscribers to enjoy immediately without any additional fees or costs. It was released on Christmas Day, so it is possible that you may have missed its release, but if you’ve seen it on your Disney+ home screen and are wondering whether or not to check it out, here is our review!
The story begins by introducing the viewer to Joe Gardner, a part-time middle school band teacher and wannabe jazz musician. Joe is quickly faced with a decision as the principal informs him that his job has been approved to be full-time, while he reconnects with a former student who is now a drummer for a jazz quartet and are looking for a new pianist. He auditions and is given a chance to finally make it. As he is celebrating his audition, Joe falls through an uncovered manhole and this is when the story really begins.
Joe’s glowing soul finds himself on a slow moving escalator headed towards the great beyond. Shocked, surprised, and totally unprepared for the transition, Joe’s soul stages an escape and eventually finds a way out. His soul falls through space before arriving in the Great Before. This area can be thought of a training ground where soon-to-be-souls receive training in various personality traits before receiving an Earth pass. Part of their education is meeting a mentor to find that extra special spark needed to complete a soul’s training.
Joe is matched up with a rebellious soul-in-training, Number 22. The viewer learns that 22 has been around for a while and has never found that spark that would send her to Earth. 22 is not upset with this and has accepted her fate. Joe quickly learns that an amorphous accountant is on his tail since he never arrived in the Great Beyond.
Joe returns to Earth with the help of some free traveling mystics, but 22 also gets sent. The story returns to Earth with 22 finding herself inside of Joe’s body and Joe now embodied in a cat. Time is running short and they both work to have the problem fixed, but along the way, the both learn a little more about what life is like.
Overall, the movie teaches the viewer an important lesson about life — one that is important to internalize, but is even more special in a year like 2020 when connection has been more difficult. This writer would summarize the ethos as life is a journey and what is important is that journey; not the destination.
Knowing this is a Pixar movie, the animation is exquisite and there are bits and pieces of the movie that kids and adults will enjoy. My father and I were particularly fond of a joke 22 makes at the expense of a long floundering NBA team. Pixar usually is able to translate complex emotions easily, but this movie stumbles a little bit. On deeper reflection, I can’t decide if that is due to Pixar attempting to convey these emotions through a human medium or if it is due to the complexity of the emotions. I’m leaning towards complexity of emotion since I know Pixar can do most emotions extremely well (for my money, Wall-E is the best Pixar movie since it artfully tells a love story with no dialogue).
While parents may be worried about the emotional level of this movie, they needn’t be. Pixar does not stray too far from their guiding principles and kids are sure to love the bright animation, unique characters, and take away a valuable message about how to treat others. It may be a movie that you’ll want to watch together on first viewing because there are certain to be questions, but “Soul” is sure to be a good complement to 2015’s “Inside Out” and a good addition to the Disney+ archive.
Did you enjoy a viewing of “Soul” after unwrapping gifts of Christmas morning? Do you plan on checking it out before heading back to work or school? If you have seen it, what was your favorite part of the movie?