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What to know: One of the most interesting films Pixar has made! Complex and existential about the meaning of life.
Recommended age 10-18
100 minutes
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Soul is probably one of the most interesting films Pixar has made. It takes a very complex and existential idea about the meaning of life and expresses it in a unique, unexpected way.

The story follows a middle school music teacher named Joe Gardner, who wants nothing more than to play jazz on stage. When he finally has an opportunity to play, he ends up in an accident that separates his soul from his body and sends him to The Great Beyond. Joe teams up with an infant soul named 22, as they go on a journey to get Joe back to his body.

Unsurprisingly, this film looks great because it's an animated Pixar movie. Specifically, the birthplace of the souls, The Great Before, is very beautiful and ethereal-looking. Both The Great Beyond and The Great Before are interesting places visually and conceptually, but I felt like their potential was a bit wasted. I wanted to learn more about these locations and see more of them, but, alas, they're mostly forgotten about once they've served their purpose in the story.

Soul's greatest strength is its themes. I love the way this film subverts Joe's, and by extension the audience's, view on life and what it really means to be alive. It helps to have a great character like 22--who is so cynical and uninterested in human life--slowly learn to enjoy life in really subtle ways. Joe is great, but 22's character arc and her backstory really made me feel for her. She is such a well written character that I enjoyed watching her story play out. I appreciate this film attempting to tackle such a weighty subject in a way children could understand. It presents the concept of "the meaning of life" in a very mature yet still entertaining way.

I give Soul 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. Soul releases on December 25, 2020.

Reviewed by Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

With a charming jazz element and beautiful music, alluring storyline and remarkable voice work, Soul is perhaps one of Pixar's most profound films from all time.

This is the story of Joe, a middle school band teacher whose life hasn't gone the way he expects. His true passion is jazz and he is a very gifted piano player. He is not really happy with his non-exciting job and when he gets a gif with his favorite jazz musician, his life seems to experience a life changing experience. Unfortunately he is a little too excited and he ends up in a near death situation. Joe travels to another realm called "the great before." In this fantastical place, he has to help someone find their passion and he soon discovers what it means to have a soul. It feels like I'm giving away some stuff, but this movie is so complex and meaningful that is worth to watch everything that unfolds. While the storyline is very earnest and genuine it does get a little hectic. While this movie is animated and colorful, it turns complex and dark. I felt there is a bit too much going on at one point, but the story itself is very winsome.

While I'm not a huge fun of the storyline of this film, because it moves back and forth constantly and the concepts explored are too deep at times. Soul is not only for kids and I like that. Usually, most films such as Toy Story, Cars and Coco are targeted for young kids, Soul has a broader appeal and people of all ages will learn valuable lessons from it.

The music is unbelievable. I expected it would be primarily jazz, but discovered textures and electronic vibes I didn't expect. Most of the score is by industrial rock band members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from Nine Inch Nails. The futuristic vibes contrast with the more down-to-earth jazz songs included in the soundtrack.

The animation is hyper realistic in the scenes of the real world, which is typical of Pixar's work, with great attention to detail, urban landscapes, and a beautiful color palette. In the before scenes, the animation reminds me of the style of Inside Out, which is simpler and not that stylish.

The voice work is stupendous with Jamie Fox leading the cast in the role of Joe Gardner. He certainly gives this character gravitas and an adorable personality. Tina Fey plays 22, the character Joe befriends in his other life, and is quite vibrant and unique.

The message of the film is that everyone can find their own talents at the right time in their life. Life can be as delicious as a slice of pizza, because life is amazing and simple as it is.

I give Soul 4 out of 5 starts and recommend it for ages 8 to18 and adults as well. It is releasing December 25, 2020 on Disney Plus.

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

see youth comments
Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn't quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz -- and he's good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.
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