Good for the Soul

Disney Pixar’s wholesome new release is sure to leave you with a warm feeling


Photo courtesy of Imdb

Disney Pixar’s “Soul” takes the audience on a journey through the place where souls pass going into and out of life. ****/5

Dana Summers, News Director

On December 25, 2020, Pixar Animation Studios wished us all a Merry Christmas with the release of their animated feature, “Soul.” The film follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) through a near-death experience which lands him in the realm that souls pass through before they enter Earth. I had high hopes prior to watching this movie due to its great reviews, and I was not let down.

The movie is set in New York City, where Joe works as a middle school band teacher looking to further pursue a career in music. He moves one step closer to his dreams when offered a spot in a popular jazz band, but is set back again after suffering a fall that puts him in a coma. It is at this point in the film where Joe is separated from his body and appears as a soul headed for the “Great Beyond.”

Although this isn’t the first time that a Disney film has played around the idea of the afterlife, it is still a delicate topic to handle when targeted towards such a young audience. I thought that the film did a fantastic job of still keeping an overall upbeat tone. Even Joe’s death scene was handled well, as it was very quick and did not show any physical pain. 

In an attempt to escape death, Joe ends up in the “Great Before,” where souls are prepared before being brought to Earth. Here, soul counselors assist unborn souls in finding their passion, resulting in a badge that will allow them to start their life. Joe is mistaken for one of these counselors and assigned to help 22 (Tina Fey), a soul who has been in the “Great Beyond” for quite some time with no desire to live on Earth.

22 ends up being very important to the rest of the film, and I think her character is well developed as a whole. She provides a bit of comic relief to off-set the darker topics of the movie.

Joe, while still accompanied by 22, finds a way to reconnect his soul with his body. As he jumps back to Earth, 22 accidentally comes with him, landing in his body while Joe’s soul ends up in a cat. Although she is at first scared in Joe’s body, 22 quickly learns to love it. She goes about Joe’s life, and even has important conversations that Joe never had with the people close to him.

Although I understand that this body switch was necessary to tell the story, I wish we could have seen a little bit more of Joe in his own body. After all, Joe Gardner was the first Black lead in a Pixar movie. I was initially looking forward to this, as I don’t often see African American men represented in animation.

A good chunk of the movie then takes place with Joe and 22 in each other’s bodies, until a worker from the “Great Before” brings them both back to the soul realm. 22 then sees that her badge has appeared, but Joe insists it was only because she was in his body. He takes the badge and uses it to return to Earth, where he performs with the jazz band from the beginning of the movie. With a guilty conscience, he returns the badge to 22 to sacrifice his own life so that she can begin hers. As Joe heads to “Great Beyond,” he is stopped by a soul counselor who gives him a second chance after his inspiring sacrifice. Joe returns to his body for the final time, now ready to live his life to the fullest.

My final thoughts after watching “Soul” are mostly positive. The animation, much like most Pixar films, was very well done and makes the movie extremely visually pleasing. The film gives life to its New York City setting, filling the streets with lots of traffic, barber shops and pizzerias. My favorite place in the movie, however, was the setting of the “Great Before.” The pastel colors and abstract characters gave this spirit realm a whimsical aesthetic that I found to be very elegant. On top of it all, the whole film is sprinkled with beautiful jazz music to tie everything together.

While I can definitely say older kids will be able to appreciate the film, it may be hard for those of a younger age to fully understand the bigger picture. Not only does it dive into deeper concepts of life and death, but the plot itself could be seen as a bit complicated. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful movie overall with a meaningful message about finding life’s purpose and celebrating each person as an individual.