The great Hunter S. Thompson once said: “I tell you; you’d act differently if you thought you were going to die at noon tomorrow.” I’d never quite believed that, my feverish attempts to live a truly mediocre life, whilst at the same time longing for some sliver of excitement, have made for exceptional examples of how to survive, but not enjoy life. Soul takes this style of existence to heart, showcasing a man trying to break into the mainstream of jazz music, a passion he shared with his late father. Creativity can be stifled by the tiniest of inconveniences, but for those constantly plugging away at their shot in the big leagues, Soul will capture the frustration that comes from being in the right place at the wrong time.
It takes on the big questions Disney are comfortable with, as usual, filtering them down to palatable, bitesize chunks. A stalwart innovator of Disney, director Pete Docter has a stronger outing here than he did in Inside Out. His message feels more poignant and to the point, not in a manipulative way, but in a state of understanding. He presses his audience to dig deep into the minds, to think of how they’ve spent their time on this planet. How much or little impact they had doesn’t make a difference, but whether they enjoyed themselves is what is at the core of this. Soul follows Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx)
What I’ve learnt these past few years is that I’m quite the fiend for jazz and soul music. Starting your day with a bit of Otis Redding or Miles Davis really does improve your quality of life. Soul is a comfortable film, one that has grand representation under its belt, most of which feels genuine and engaging, rather than stifled and self-congratulatory. Foxx’s leading vocals provide an integral, guiding hand. He and Tina Fey gel well with one another, although their chemistry does fall to the wayside from time to time, mainly in the hopes of giving its audience a resounding comforting, but predictable series of story events. Gardner’s regret flows off of the screen, a man determined to get back out there and really make a difference, it plays well with the sleek and modern animation Disney provide.
Docter’s directed piece does indeed hold within it what the title would suggest. A soulful, engaging bit of film that has a very simple story, propping up strong messages and the usual Disney charm. Perhaps personal sentimentalism and a soft spot for creative craftsmanship have edged Soul deeper into my consciousness than I’d first expected, but not even I can deny the quality on display here. An incredible film overall, one that implores us to take time to appreciate the little things in life. The odd smiles and the moments of peace, even the hardships that may hit us, all of them are worth holding onto, and those small moments make for a life well-led. Soul is a shatteringly great time, one that shows sparks of creativity are still flying between Pixar and Disney.