Family films don’t come any cuter than this. Soul is a very strong contender for my most favorite of the Disney/PIXAR films, threatening to knock Finding Nemo from its top spot. Probably after I’ve watched it as many times as I’ve watched Finding Nemo, it’ll be my #1.
Stories about what happens to your soul after it leaves (or before it comes to) your body have been told and retold in many different ways, and it’s a fun concept to play around with. Lots of authors and film directors have crafted tales about the afterlife, pre-life, or that fuzzy grey area between life and afterlife. Heck, I myself have a few. So, the main idea behind Soul isn’t exactly a new one. But they do such a fantastic job of putting a fresh, entertaining spin on it.
Our hero is Joe Gardner, a piano playing man who is eternally hopeful that his big break is just around the corner. He makes ends meet by being a middle school band teacher, but that gig does little to feed what he feels is his true passion. He thinks he’s on his way to the big time when he lands another substitute gig in a jazz quartet fronted by one of his idols, but because of a freak accident, he’s fast-tracked to the Great Beyond.
Joe is understandably reluctant to say goodbye to his life. Truthfully, this brings up one of the few issues I have with the story: It’s presented as if Joe is the only soul who doesn’t want to ascend. With the way people are, I’d expect there to be millions of souls every day, trying to escape back to life. But sure, let’s pretend that Joe’s the only rogue. Anyway, he stumbles into becoming a mentor for souls who are on the brink of becoming lost. Some of these souls belong to living people, while others have yet to descend to Earth.
Joe is tasked with helping an “old” soul known only as 22, and while I think unassigned souls should be genderless, 22 is identified as a she. 22 has tried the patience of literal saints, so she’ll be a tough nut to crack. Joe cuts a deal with 22 that he thinks will get him back to his body before his chance at stardom goes by the boards. Many hijinks and shenanigans ensue along the way, and Joe and 22 learn quite a bit about what it means to be truly alive. And to be a cat.
Soul is a pleasing watch, with the jokes coming at you rapid-fire (one of the reasons it warrants repeat viewing), and giving you the feels while not becoming sickly-sweet and sappy. It’s visually stunning, especially on a 4K television, and contains lots of music without becoming a musical. See it if you haven’t, and see it again if you have. Four out of five stars.