‘Soul’ movie review: Existential Pixar film asks all the big questions


They’re questions both kids and adults ask of themselves: what’s my purpose? What’s my goal? What am I good at? What’s my reason for living?

Of course, as we age, these questions take on new nuance and importance as we consider careers, family, our futures. Years fly by, dreams aren’t realized (or are!), and our lives as a whole begin to take shape.

The heartfelt Soul confronts this head-on, following the story of Joe (voiced masterfully by Jamie Foxx) as he struggles with where he is in life. A talented jazz and piano man, Joe has been grappling with his perceived failures, teaching band to a bunch of unappreciative middle schoolers while dreaming big of a career in music. Then it happens — his life-changing break: a potential gig playing with a renowned local jazz musician.

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'Soul' movie

Jamie Foxx stars as Joe in the Disney-Pixar movie ‘Soul.’.


But things don’t go exactly as planned for Joe; while celebrating the news about the job, he falls down an open maintenance hole cover and finds himself in a whole new world.

Where does he end up?

It’s tough to describe, but something like the afterlife and the before-life mixed together. There’s a literal conveyor belt of souls leaving their lives and heading towards a bright, sun-like light. On the flip side, there’s a heaven-like space (think Super Mario World, replete with clouds and a fantastical glow) filled with new, young souls eager to head down to Earth.

First things first, however: working with a “mentor” of sorts, these young souls have to figure out what their “spark” is before they can start their lives. Some souls find this spark in baking, others in sports, others in study, but until you find out what it is, you will not be dispatched to the planet. In this “heaven,” Joe meets 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who’s been lost for so long, most of the counsellors have given up on her. No matter what she does or who she has as a mentor, she can’t figure out her spark.

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Joe is tasked with helping 22, and together they embark on a journey of self-discovery.

This all sounds a little too serious for kids.

It does sound a tad complex, but somehow the writers and producers have managed to make this accessible for children. While some of the more serious, emotional discussions might not have the resonance they do for adults, there are enough visual gags and inventive concepts that should keep their interest — like a sailboat riding through clouds, or the counsellors that can change shape or a man trapped in a cat’s body.

But it’s what the movie has to say to adults, especially during COVID-19, that really hits home.

What is that, exactly?

The movie’s subject matter is especially raw, considering that it’s being released after months of being unable to see family or have normal contact with the outside world. For kids, in most cases, the lockdown is a trial, an impediment to freedom. For adults, it’s the same, but with age, we also, unfortunately, have a concept of the bigger picture. Each month in lockdown is harder than the last, 30 days lost in the ether of time, over and over. Adults understand that the time is gone, never to be relived.

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Towards the end of the movie, Joe has a series of realizations about himself and his life thus far, the precious things that somehow he’d managed to become numb to. Indeed, the valuable lesson of Soul is to make the most out of every moment we have, no matter how mundane it may seem.

So what’s the bottom line?

Eating pizza, the sun dancing in tree leaves, watching a sunset with your loved one, other simple pleasures — this is the lifeblood of Soul, and of your own soul. Deep, I know. This movie will take you there. While your kids might not understand the gravity of what they’re watching, there’s a message for all of us in here: appreciate the small things whenever you can.


‘Soul’ is available on Disney+ on December 25.

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Written by admin69


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