In Theatres: 
Dec 25, 2020
Running Time: 
100 minutes

We all have dreams, aspirations, and goals we want to accomplish in our time here on Earth, but life oftentimes says otherwise. Creative outlets are forced into the deep recesses of the mind as survival kicks in, and we end up doing things just to get by in life, but are we truly living? And if so, then why? Soul is Pixar’s latest animated movie, and it is the studio’s most adult film yet as it explores the hopes, fears, and regrets of a life’s purpose. Deeply complex and rich with character and insight, Soul connects on an emotionally fulfilling level few movies accomplish.


Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a jazz pianist who has forever dreamed of hitting it big on stage and sharing his talent with the world, but his reality is that he is a middle school band teacher who deals with kids all day who have little interest in performing music. Despite this, he always jumps at any gig and opportunity to play in front of a crowd so you can imagine his excitement when he impresses famous jazz musician Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) and is given one show as a test to see if he has the chops to play with her band. His dreams are short lived however as a tragic accident sends him to the Great Beyond. Not ready to give up just as he was about to get his big break, Joe sneaks into a training mentorship in the Great Before with unfinished souls to help develop their personalities and talents before going to the real world. There he meets 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who has no interest in life and is happy just wandering around the Great Before. Joe must show 22 that life is worth living if he’s ever going to return to his body and catch that big break he’s been waiting for for all his life.


Soul is a film that is not just about finding your life’s purpose but about finding your life. We tend to view things in very black or white terms; if Joe isn’t a jazz pianist, he’s nothing. That’s exactly how Soul starts out, especially when we’re introduced to the Great Before. At first glance it seems like that’s the case too, with personalities, quirks, and purposes being assigned to souls who are then ready to go to Earth and live as if everything has already been planned out for them from the beginning. 22 doesn’t see what’s the point of all of that and is happy “living” in the Great Before. She has this fear of what if things don’t work out. The Great Before is safety. Initially, Joe wants to mentor her just so he can get his own ticket back to Earth, but eventually he realizes what living truly means.


As an adult in my 30s, Soul arrives at the perfect time. From a young age, we’re taught to have a defined path in life. At 18, we’re supposed to know exactly what job we want, go to college to get a degree for said job, and then work toward that goal. It’s a daunting thing to ask of someone so young. And yet that’s the way it is. The Great Before seems a lot like that, although the film wonderfully explains that the concepts and ideas expressed beyond the Earth and essentially dumbed down for Joe so he can understand them. Just like the real world, Soul is much more complex.


The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter whether we’re a fresh soul like 22 or a man in his 50s like Joe, we can strive to be whatever we want and life is constantly changing. As Joe mentors 22, he begins to find joy in other things beside being solely focused on jazz. Meanwhile 22 learns what Earth is really about and that sometimes you have to walk a mile in another person’s shoes in order to see that, literally. Soul is all about perspective.


Soul is infectious like a good piece of jazz music. It enters your head and never leaves, popping up randomly and bringing a smile to your face. It’s a wonderful film for all ages, but it’s especially meaningful for adults who might still be trying to find their purpose. Soul shows that it’s never too late to discover things about yourself. It’s Pixar at its very best.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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