The festive season is firmly upon us, and if you are currently trapped in Crimbo limbo, aka the almost timeless period that falls between Christmas Day and New Year, then you are most likely looking for some entertainment. And as this is 2020, and you have spent all year watching everything imaginable, it is no doubt becoming increasingly more difficult to find something new to occupy your time.
Well, the good news is that Disney+ has recently added a new Disney-Pixar animated movie to its subscription service, which can fill 100 minutes of your time. The even better news is that the movie – which is called Soul – is simply superb, and not only will it fill 100 minutes of your time, but it will do so in a fun, imaginative, and meaningful way.
Directed by Pete Docter – the director behind Monsters, Inc (2001), Up (2009), and Inside Out (2015) – Soul is a computer animated film about a school music teacher called Joe, who is searching for his purpose in life. Joe’s dream is to become a famous musician, and step away from his job as a teacher, but in order to achieve his goal he has to get around one very significant problem – his accidental and untimely death.
Now I could provide a little more detail about Joe’s rather concerning predicament, and I could fill you in on a few of the film’s major plot points, but I feel it is best to know very little about Soul. In fact, before I watched this movie, I had no idea what Soul was about, and I think that is the best way to approach this movie.
What I did know about Soul was specifically connected to its release. This film was due to arrive in cinemas back in June, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Soul got moved to Disney+, where it made its debut on Christmas Day.
But don’t for one moment think Soul was added to Disney+ as filler material, to take advantage of a captive Christmas audience. Soul is a Grade A, top notch, Disney-Pixar movie, which counts Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, and Angela Bassett amongst its cast, and is bloody brilliant.
If you’re a fan of Disney-Pixar films, you will know that most of the movies work on two levels, with jokes, characters, and situations which appeal to both adults and children. Some of the movies skew a little more towards younger audiences (Cars, The Good Dinosaur etc), while others are a little more adult orientated (Inside Out, Coco). Soul is the most adult Disney-Pixar movie to date.
This is a film which works best for those who have been on this planet a little longer, and who have experienced the highs and lows of chasing a dream. Kids will love what is on offer in Soul, but this is a movie which sets its sights on those of us who have become very focused in our adult years, and who have become a little too caught up in fulfilling a purpose.
On a personal level, this film connected with me in a way I never expected, and with a character who I found I had much in common with. Some of the lines spoken in the film felt like they were thoughts plucked directly from my brain, and the central themes and core message really struck a chord.
Purely from a story level, and the way it connected, this movie would have got a thumbs up from me. But this is a Disney-Pixar movie, so I expect a strong story – it has to be expertly animated too!
During the opening moments of the movie, which are set within a school classroom, my very first thought about Soul was ‘why is this an animated feature?’ I get why Monsters, Inc and Toy Story are animated, as they deal with fantastical characters, but why Soul?
For the briefest of moments, based on the opening scene, I saw the characters and the setting, and wondered what would make this Disney-Pixar stand out as an animated feature? Surely this story about a music teacher could have been live-action, right?
But then it all became very clear to me why Soul could only exist as animation; because Soul is a piece of artwork which expresses spirituality and beliefs in such a way that wouldn’t work so well in live-action. It is also a beautiful piece of artwork, which transitions from one distinctive style to the next, and does so in such an innovative, awe-inspiring, mind-blowing way, that it simply had to be animated.
Soul takes what Disney-Pixar has achieved with its entire back catalogue of animated titles, which is already beyond impressive, and then cranks things up to the next level. It brings ideas and visuals to the screen that are so strong, and so visually stunning, that it instantly becomes a stand-out feature.
How Disney-Pixar continues to outdo itself is beyond my tiny little mind, but Soul proves that the studio never stops trying to push the envelope. And not just with animation, but with music too.
Soul is incredibly creative with its soundtrack. The film mixes different styles of music to produce a jazz-infused journey unlike anything else you will hear on film, and this is magnificently interwoven into the very fabric of the picture.
I’m unsure if the 2021 Academy Awards are still going ahead next year, but if Soul isn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Soundtrack (and it doesn’t win both categories), then something is seriously wrong. Soul is an incredible movie.
Despite the horrendous problems that 2020 has brought, the year has managed to deliver some truly fine films, notably JoJo Rabbit, Parasite, The Invisible Man, Summer of ’85, and Let Him Go. Soul not only joins this list of movies, it sits at the front, leading the way as a shining beacon.
Prior to today, I had already picked The Invisible Man as my favourite movie of 2020, and I stand by it. But for my money, Soul is without doubt the best film of the year.
This is a movie which would stand head and shoulders above its peers at any point in time, but specifically during 2020, it is the animated movie we need the most. If you are a Disney+ subscriber then you really must check this one out, as Soul will provide you with much entertainment, much to think about, and a more hopeful outlook in these gloomy times.
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