Pete Docter, Kemp Powers (co-director)
‘Soul’ is directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers, centering around aspiring jazz musician Joe (Jamie Foxx). Joe is a middle aged temporary music teacher looking to finally have his big break. This break appears to him when a former student gets him an audition with a popular jazz band to be their pianist. After Joe’s successful audition gets him the break he’s been looking for, his life is cut short as he falls down a manhole, nearly killing him. His soul is now in a temporary waiting state, and Joe will need to do anything in his power to get back to earth and play at the show before his chance at the big stage is gone. In this cerebral look at life, what it is, what matters, and why we do what we do as humans, Disney and Pixar have outdone themselves with powerful storytelling and beautiful animation.
First thing that jumps at you when watching ‘Soul’ is in its score and animation. The music is incredible, the animation hyperrealistic to the point where you really don’t realize it is animated until Joe is taken to the soul world. The use of 2-D and 3-D in the soul world is really important to the story. 2-D characters are the workers inside of this world that are counting souls, all named Counselor Jerry but played by multiple people like Richard Ayoade, Alicia Braga, and Fortune Feimster. These counselors jobs are bringing new souls into the world, and helping those new souls find their passion before they can go to Earth. Enter 22 (Tina Fey) a soul that has essentially been deemed a lost cause by the 2-D workers who have paired her with countless influential figures throughout time to find her passion. She has little to no interest in anything, which Joe see’s as a chance to use her pass to Earth for himself to get to his show in time. There are others that help them on their journey, one being a guru able to zen out into the spirit world named Moonwind (Graham Norton), as well as other supporting characters in the real world.
The voice performances from Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey are great and they have great chemistry. I loved the characters story arcs as they start to examine what passions mean in the grand scheme of life. The films message may go over younger kids heads, but for older viewers is powerful and moving. The representation of real black characters is also done beautifully and respectfully, one scene inside a barbershop where 22 is learning about passions and life really stand out for its accurate depictions of real people and settings. Pixar again delivers with earned emotional moments that don’t feel manipulative just to pull on your heartstrings. Anyone can relate to these characters motivations and feel close to them, maybe more in this film than any other Pixar film.
Overall, ‘Soul’ is one of Pixar’s best films, I believe it can be studied as much as ‘Inside Out’ and used in a positive way for people who may not have a passion, or may be working to reach a goal to stop, and to look around you and notice the beauty of life. It’ll be debuting on Disney + and theaters Christmas day, so please do not sleep on this one!