Soul thrives in it’s diversity and in the music of Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, which elevates the heart of the film along with the jazz compositions of Jon Baptiste… and if that was all it took to make a great film I would be exclaiming that Pixar has done it yet again, but it is not and THEY have not because these can’t save what bad writing has ruined.
In Soul a musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself.
Unfortunately Pixar’s latest lacks the abundance of heart we are accustomed to seeing in their films and it’s messages are a jumbled confusing mess that underwhelm at their very best and are truly scary at their worst. As an adult I found myself annoyed by the film’s inability to stick to “sometimes you just don’t fit the conventional molds others have created”, a message so many of our current youth and young adults need to hear, me included. When filtered through the eyes of a child, a group this film seems intent to please though the confusing nature of the ending would say otherwise, the message becomes more about life and death and your ability to simply end it and “go back” if you don’t like the cards you’ve been dealt. I worry for the conversations parents will need to have with their young ones because of this film, something I know has already happened and how do you prepare for that? I mean… it’s Pixar, how bad can it be?
Setting aside the troubling takeaways, the animation is disappointing– as in NOT to the standards of Disney Pixar. Perhaps we are simply spoiled because, in truth, the animation is above the level of most other studios but it is they who have spoiled us and must now bare the burden of our expectations.
The screenplay was frustrating seeing as it doesn’t even follow the synopsis of the film! I usually write a synopsis in my own words but this one drives my point too well. The trailers and synopsis are incredibly misleading but not in a “bait & switch” kind of way but rather in a “won’t it be really cool if they think this is what they’re getting but instead we blow them away by switching it up and delivering something grander” kind of way… So, you walk in thinking you are getting a film about appreciating life and making the best of your passion even when things don’t go the way you envisioned, but instead you get a children’s fish-out-of-water story… a fish being guided by a cat… a cat trying to convince the fish to get the hell out of their body and get their own.
Very grand, indeed.
But, above all these issues I have with the film, what I need to go back to and can’t overstate is the meaning behind the film that makes it more than entertainment, it makes it a lesson. Pixar has been so good at this for so long. In Coco we learn the importance of family and of the dangers of greed. In Inside Out we learn the importance of emotional balance. In Up we learn the power of balloons.
In Soul, as one 8 year old put it, you learn that you shouldn’t be afraid of life because if you don’t like it you can just go back… which, when filtered through the mind of an adult, certainly sounds a lot like suicide understandably triggering a conversation from a concerned parent worried about the seed this kids animation just embedded into their own child.
Animated films tend to be safe for kids to watch even outside of supervision and though in the past we have found issues with messages like “you need a prince(man) to save you” this feels much more dangerous because in life you don’t get do-overs and you can’t just “go back” if life sucks at any given moment– you can, however, kick that prince to the curb because you realize that maybe, just maybe, it ISN’T ok that he tried to kiss you while you were unconscious.
Listen, you will watch this film because you have a longer lasting relationship with Pixar than with me. But prepare yourself for disappointment, because the film just is, and if you’re watching with kids, prepare for a possible unwanted conversation which I know in my case feels like the extreme but one kid getting a life damaging inception-style message is one kid too many especially if they have no one to talk to as is the case with so many. 6/10
Soul is now streaming on Disney+.