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Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Director: Pete Docter

Studio: Disney

Pixar’s own Soul stone takes its storytelling level to its new height on life’s greatest mysteries!

Some say Soul can be mistaken for another Inside Out film upon seeing the trailer, but the studio offers another delightful flick this year that takes you and your family on a trip of a lifetime. Pixar director and Academy Award winner Pete Docter, who helmed Up and Inside Out and was appointed to Chief Creative Officer at Pixar following John Lasseter’s departure, returns to his fourth directorial outing, putting Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey on board as main leads of the film while supportive actors Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett play along in the scenes. Newly director Kemp Powers also stands in as co-director for this anticipated animated film.

Soul follows the story of a middle school band teacher Joe Gardener, who has a deep passion for jazz, has a lifelong dream of performing in the jazz club with several respected musicians. However, he runs into an untimely accident that causes his soul to be separated from his body, heading towards what is called The Great Before, where all souls develop personalities and traits. With that, he must work with another soul in order to return to his body before it’s too late.

Actor, comedian, and singer Jamie Foxx (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Ray) voices Joe Gardener, a middle school band instructor whose soul is separated from his body as a result of his untimely accident. Actress and comedian Tina Fey (30 Rock) voices 22, a soul with a dim view of life who she is assigned to Joe. Supportive actors also appeared in the film: Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show) as the mother of Joe, Questlove (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) as a drum player Curley, Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting, The Black-ish) as Joe’s rival and nemesis, and Angela Bassett (Black Panther) as Dorthea, a much respected jazz musician and saxophone player.

Soul is the first Pixar film to feature a African American protagonist. The studio has increasingly, and arguably, engendered more cultural traditions and diversity after the productions of Coco and the short Bao. As a director, Docter have come to his past situations, dealing with life that signifies and embodies how any ordinary human life can be when it comes to growing up while Kemp Powers strongly focuses on the providing character developments of the main African American protagonist taking over onscreen based on stereotypes and representation of blacks and on his own life.

Doctor and Powers have really brought the Black representation of portraying Foxx’s character and other characters accurately to get a better understanding of how these humanistic explorations and contributions have endured in our culture and the ways of living in our world. These are the things that focus on what world we live in, the things we love, and what they are passionate about, borrowing the same elements from Inside Out, also directed by Docter. Their (Docter and Powers) experiences towards the film really adds a soft narrative structure to this powerful message about Black people and becomes the main part of the story’s dynamics to that affair.

The animation is really exquisite on every scene in the human world and the soul world that perfectly captures the enduring journey of how any person or life that engenders lots of happiness and compassion, giving the film’s main comparisons of the setting from Pixar’s Coco between this and the Land of the Dead and Inside Out, which focuses primarily on the five main emotions inside the girl’s mind. It’s really glowing to watch carefully as the animation from each soul could represent life and living on their well-beings as if one is watching the latter all over again. With the beautiful animation and the storytelling provided from Docter himself, Soul could potentially lead to become an Oscar contender for any categories, especially Best Animated Feature, with a very high hopes for that film to simply be nominated and winning it at the same time, but we’ll have to wait til the Academy is getting closer.

And let’s not forget the soft, beautiful, jazzy hardworking music from composers Trent Raznor and Atticus Ross with jazz music writer Jon Batiste, which stands perfectly on the film, the narratives, the characters, and the climaxes. Their music-writing compositions almost sounded like it’s good combination of Michael Giacchino and Randy Newman. Just to let the viewers know that this is Pete Docter’s first directorial film since Monsters, Inc. without having Giacchino on board.

As aforementioned, Soul is heavily one of the greatest films on my top ten list to watch. It clocks to at least a hundred minutes. Docter and his team of actors and film crew have done an outstanding job delivering messages, bringing the Black representation over to Hollywood, and learning better ways to get to know life, culture, and diversity at places and boundaries. This is absolutely one of Pete Docter’s finest hits. Though it’s very depressing and disappointing that this film has lost its gig on the big screen, I promise you that this flick will cheer your spirits up as you watch it and hope that 2021 gets better than ever that way we can go back to the movie theaters again. I must say, Soul is a must and is anybody’s soul food. You can watch this Disney+ or if you don’t have Disney+, better wait til the Blu-ray release is out.

One last thing, there’s a Pixar animated short called Burrow, which was originally scheduled for the theatrical release before the film, that you should watch before watching Soul like a traditional Pixar viewing pleasure in theaters.


(Review by Henry Pham)

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