Soul review: Pixar animation shows what it means to be human – just at the right time

Soul: Jamie Foxx stars in trailer for Disney Pixar film

Soul is the upcoming animation from Disney Pixar, which is skipping the big screen and heading straight to Disney Plus. Due to Covid-19, the film will not be in cinemas straight away, but may make it to the multiplex in the new year. However, for now, fans can watch the movie from Christmas Day at home – and it is absolutely worth the subscription fee.

Soul is a story of what it means to be human, told in a slightly different way to many Disney Pixar films.

The movie opens with Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx,) a jazz obsessive who had big dreams of becoming a jazz pianist, only to be the band teacher at a local middle school.

However, his dreams look as though they are about to come true when an old student of his, who is now touring with well-known saxophonist Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett,) gives him the chance to play with the group.

Joe is over the moon, despite his mother Libba’s (Phylicia Rashad) concern, and the school offering him a full-time position as a teacher.

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In his excitement and haste to get himself ready for the show, Joe falls down a manhole and quickly a blue, bubbly figure is seen on a travelator, heading towards a bright light.

It becomes clear Joe has died, almost, and is heading towards ‘The Great Beyond,’ but is desperate to have his chance to play with Dorothea.

He escapes the light and eventually finds himself in a ‘soul mentoring’ programme in ‘The Great Before’, where he must help a sceptical, frightened-of-life soul, Number 22 (Tina Fey) to find her spark so she is ready to head to Earth.

While Joe is desperate to return to Earth himself, Number 22 wants nothing of what life can offer, finding no joy in any of the things which could help her, whether that is trying out sports, listening to music or taking advice from her previous mentors, ranging from Mother Teresa to Abraham Lincoln.

Before delving into why this film is a perfect antidote for the current climate, one thing to nitpick: the concept of the film is more complex than Pixar movies gone before, which means the film takes a little longer to get into.

However, this is eased substantially by how utterly beautiful the animation is, which allows us to marvel before the true meaning of the movie soaks in.

The little, blue bubbles are slightly transparent, as is most of the world in ‘The Great Before,’ which seems like an incredible feat.

The colours are slightly pastel, creating a sense of the ethereal when Joe is moving through the world beyond Earth, but the vivid mix of blues, purples and pinks are completely breathtaking.

Even when the Earthlings are ‘in the zone,’ which Joe experienced playing piano, they float in a fragile glow of the heavens, which is beautifully rendered for the screen.

While this film is mainly heartwarming, there is also a brilliant comic timing when it comes to Number 22, with her previous mentor cameos cutting through the panic of Joe’s situation in a brilliant way.

The true crux of the story is, however, the discovery of how little things make up the human experience, and no one purpose can bring fulfillment except for being present in the everyday.

Joe goes on a journey to realising this from a completely different angle to 22, who is afraid of life before she gets the opportunity to soak it in and feel every nuance of human life.

With Joe, he single-mindedly focuses on one goal until it becomes clear, for him, he can only feel fulfilled when he begins to appreciate ‘plain, old living,’ and finds his own spark in his life as it is.

At a time like this, appreciating the small things is incredibly important; and when Christmas is not what we hoped for, Soul can remind us that being present with those we love, looking around at nature and the everyday turnings of our world is all we need to feel grateful for what we have, rather than focusing on that which we may have lost.

As mentioned, Soul will be arriving on subscription service Disney Plus so fans can enjoy it just in time for Christmas.

Soul comes out on Disney Plus on Christmas Day (December 25)

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