Movie Guru: Disney’s ‘Soul’ Could Be Pixar’s First Adult Movie
I don’t necessarily mean this the wrong way. The film, which premieres on Disney + ‘s Christmas Day, is a powerful and deeply nuanced meditation on finding meaning in life. Any adult who watches will likely be struck by at least one profound moment during the film, and some can actually see their whole perspective on life. Beyond that, it’s just fun to watch.
The point is, most people who light up a Pixar movie expect their kids to enjoy it, too. And, other than a few low gags and a particularly delicious streak around the middle of the movie, there doesn’t seem to be much for the kids to do here. The main characters are either old in body and mind, already plagued with disappointments and regrets, and the main theme of the film is trying to figure out the purpose of life. It’s not even the kind of problem that happens to you before you are a teenager, and it’s not something that you really start to understand the importance of until you are at least 20 years old.
The film begins with Joe, a middle-aged music teacher struggling with the issue of teaching full time or pursuing his dream of becoming a successful musician. An incident after a particularly successful audition leads him to an untimely death, which immediately throws him into the afterlife on his way to the Great Afterlife. Joe fights against his fate, leading him to the realm where souls hang out before being sent to Earth in the first place. It was there that he met 22, a soul that has successfully repelled its own appearance on Earth for centuries.
This is the point in the description where anyone who has seen a movie set in the afterlife can begin to guess where the plot is heading. The good thing is that it stays there for a good half an hour and then takes a sharp left turn in a much more interesting rendition that allows “Soul” to explore things that previous films in l. ‘beyond had not. Telling you anything about that particular left turn or what follows would spoil the fun, especially since for once the trailers were careful not to reveal the details either.
It’s also a pretty funny movie. There’s one particular moment that’s basically a really fast-paced poop joke, but for the most part the humor is a fun mix of visual gags, referential humor, and a more gently absurd pun. There is a race that consists almost entirely of a really delicious slapstick, but even that is designed in such a way that it can appeal to adults in the audience even more than children.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. As long as you turn it on for yourself rather than your 8 year old, “Soul” is a journey into the afterlife that you won’t hesitate to take again and again.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning film critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or message her at [email protected].
Rated: PG for thematic elements and some languages
Story and Screenplay by: Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers
Directed by: Pete Doctor, co-directed by Kemp Powers
With: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Phylicia Rashad, Donnell Rawlings, Questlove, Angela Bassett and more
Rating: Three and a half stars (out of four)