Monday 28 December 2020

Movie Review - Soul

The latest release of renowned animation studio Pixar has now debuted on streaming service Disney Plus, opening to the usual warm welcome that you'd expect from most of the studio's works. Their newest story sees school music teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) on a bizarre adventure to reunite his astray soul with his body following their separation within the afterlife; it's a plot hard to truly detail without risking an onslaught of spoilers, but what follows from here is a vivid journey of further self discovery for someone who doesn't always appreciate what's around him.

Soul is as beautifully animated as you'd expect any Pixar film to be, boasting rich and realistic detail within its various locales yet maintaining a unique degree of style and charm, particularly during scenes that take place within the afterlife and preexistence settings inhabited by various souls among other fictional beings. It's this art direction that lets the film's aesthetic stand out in its own way without just looking like a visual rehash of previous Pixar works or just other computer animated films in general. Soul also boasts some superb original jazz music composed by Jon Batiste; clearly a lot of effort went into the overall sound design to capture the main vibe of the film's story and setting, with remarkable results.

The opening act of Soul is certainly one to admire, with a charming introduction to our main protagonist, voiced superbly by Jamie Foxx, whose impulsive and somewhat cocky nature is effectively portrayed through a combination of humourous and heartfelt moments in a fairly short period of time. His entry into the realm of souls then of course brings to life the most astounding visuals and degree of originality that the film has to offer, and so it's a great shame from there that things slightly decline within a lengthy middle act of amusing yet somewhat repetitive gags and general silliness, which ends up feeling both somewhat cliché and incongruous. The opening act once again establishes a very promising concept with plenty of room for originality and depth, and while this subsequent middle act certainly isn't bad, it's a tad too long and has too much obsession with trying to make audiences laugh than focusing on the film's core themes in a meaningful way.

Repetitive as some of the humour can be, Soul is still a very funny film for the most part, with amusing dialogue and witty slapstick. It also boasts a beautiful ending, which demonstrates more of Pixar's expert art direction and concludes a story with resounding themes in a very memorable fashion. This is a film that was greeted with universal acclaim by most critics and audiences upon release; although I can certainly see why, I myself just didn't quite feel that same resounding positivity and thought there were many missed opportunities. It obviously matches all the usual merits on Pixar's checklist: gorgeous animation, a superb cast, a strong core story, and very charming humour, but struggles a bit more with a consistent tone. Certainly another good piece of work from Pixar, but not quite on par with their finest films.