Monday 28 December 2020

Soul (Movie Review)

The latest Pixar animated film, Soul, finally debuted on Disney+ and select international theaters this Christmas, after being delayed from its original theatrical release date back in June. But unlike the similarly delayed Mulan that attracted a $30 premier access fee when it landed on Disney+, this one is free to watch by all Disney+ subscribers, at no extra charge, as the streaming platform went head to head with HBO Max, where Wonder Woman 1984 had also made its streaming debut.

The movie features the voice talent of Jamie Foxx, who voices an aspiring jazz musician named Joe Gardner. Having spent most of his life chasing after his dream of playing in a jazz band, he is now relegated to teaching a middle school music class. But after he is involved in a fatal accident on the very day he'd finally gotten his big break, Joe proves reluctant to move on to the afterlife, and decides instead to team up with an unborn soul called 22 (Tina Fey), in a bid to find his way back home.

The first thing that struck me about Soul was its beautiful animation. Pixar have always been known for the quality of their productions, but they somehow manage to keep raising the bar with each subsequent release. And Soul is at their current pinnacle, with scenes that often look photorealistic at first glance, and a fluid animation style that proves why they are the best in the business. 

This extends to even the afterlife sequences, which adopted a chibby art style that stood in stark contrast to how its real-world sequences were animated. This was reminiscent of the dreamlike worlds from Inside Out, but the whole thing still blends together nicely to create a surprisingly coherent whole.

In terms of the story itself, the writing is just as topnotch as ever, showcasing all the emotional depth that the studio is known for.  The subject matter might be heavier than most of their prior work, but they infuse it with enough lighthearted humor that it should be perfectly accessible by younger audiences. That said, it doesn't quite reach the emotional heights of an Up or a Toy Story 3.

Not that every single one of their movies need to, but it is still something worth noting. And between this and their previous release of the year, Onward, I'd give that other movie a slight edge, mainly because it resonated with me more on a personal level, so your mileage may vary.

Soul joins the ranks of movies we've had in 2020 which we can only wonder how they would have performed if given a traditional box office release. Pixar had scored immense success in the past with original productions like Inside Out and Up, so the precedent was there for Soul to be another hit. But the mere fact that we are getting a film of this level debut on a streaming platform makes it the perfect holiday gift for Disney+ subscribers and fans of Pixar animated films alike.

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