Many of us spend a large portion of our lives chasing after the things which we believe will define us. It is the search for that level of success that will makes our obsession, pain and sacrifice all worth it. However, a soul named 22 (Tina Fey) ponders at a Black barber shop in Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ latest film Soul, “is all this living really worth dying for?” Understanding what really makes life worth living is one of the existential questions that the central character must wrestle with in Pixar’s latest animated gem.
In the eyes of jazz pianist and middle school band teacher Joe (Jamie Foxx), life is all about landing that full time gig in a band. Unfortunately, after scoring his dream job playing in a quartet led by legendary saxophonist Dorethea (Angela Bassett), Joe steps into an open manhole and falls into a coma. Awaking as a soul on the conveyer belt to the “Great Beyond”, Joe is desperate to get back to his body on Earth. Escaping to an in-between realm where souls are groomed prior to getting a body, Joe meets the rebellious 22 who is doing everything she can to avoid being assigned to a newborn human.
Sharing a common desire to cheat the system, the pair agree to team up in hopes of attaining what they each truly desire the most. What Joe does not realize though is that one does not evade the afterlife without an accountant, Terry (Rachel House), taking notice. Determined to ensure that every soul destined for the Great Beyond makes it there, Terry makes it his personal mission to capture Joe’s soul and bring balance to the universe. With only a few hours to get his soul back in his body, Joe and 22 must navigate both their differences and several unexpected obstacles if they hope to make it to the show on time.
Using the tropes of a body-swapping comedy to ease audiences into an existential meditation on life, Soul is an absolute delight from beginning to end. Setting the tone early with its unique mixture of animation styles, ranging from traditional to the wonderfully abstract, Docter and Powers plunges viewers into the deep end with a comfortable life vest. This allows the film to inject jokes involving Carl Jung, Mother Theresa, and the transcendent nature of sign flipping in a digestible way. As he did in his previous films, Docter once again displays his uncanny ability to bring a childlike innocence to adult themes.
It is through this sense of innocence and discovery that Soul forces the viewer to not only reflect on Joe’s life but their own as well. The film challenges our notion of personal success and reaffirms that our lives rarely travel down the paths we envision. Soul reminds us that these diversions are not failures to obsess over, but rather opportunities to truly revel in the joys these unexpected turns bring.
Filled with the right amount of humour and heart, Soul makes one feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Like a musician confidently in the zone while delivering a memorable performance, Docter and Powers’ film hits all the right notes.