Sometimes the simplest stories are the most effective
When Pixar’s Toy Story came out in 1995, I remember acting more impressed than I actually was. I knew that something special had been made, but I couldn’t help feeling disconnected from the movie itself. Looking back on it now, I think I was impressed. But it wasn’t Toy Story that impressed me; it was Pixar itself. And after watching all of their movies, multiple times, for two and a half decades, Pixar has continued to impress me time and time again.
Released on Christmas Day 2020 on Disney+, Soul has the distinction of being the first Pixar movie to be released directly on a streaming platform. Where most of the previous twenty-two Pixar films would have suffered emotional impact from a small screen debut, Soul felt right at home.
In the movie, jazz pianist, Joe Gardner’s life gets cut short and he is stuck as a soul in the ‘great before’. He decides to steal some more time in order to live out his life’s dream back on earth. Although the film spends a fair amount of time in the ‘great before’, Joe’s real adventure happens at home in New York City as he navigates his neighbourhood with another wayward soul in order to make it in time for his big chance to join the band of a jazz legend. He has to get back to his apartment, go to the barbershop, and get his suit fixed; all before heading to his appointment.
Soul is an adventure in the mundane. We’ve all been there: running around, getting prepared for a big interview or presentation or meeting, without paying attention to the small things as they happen. The movie turns a hectic day in the life of a typical adult into something wondrous and fascinating.
It also pays tribute to New York City. From the lights and sounds to the small shops and regular, everyday people, Soul paints a warm picture of one of the many small, tight-knit communities that make up the Big Apple.
If I have one complaint, it would be that there wasn’t enough closure to the story. I can appreciate the filmmakers wanting viewers to share in the characters’ contentment, but the inclusion of two or three more scenes would have gone a long way.
Regardless, I would add Soul to my list of personal favorites from Pixar. While Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 remain my favourite films from the studio, something feels extra special about Soul.
This movie feels like it was made for all of us who’ve been watching Pixar movies since 1995 when that first Toy Story came out. It was as if Pixar didn’t just move on to the next generation and forget about us because we got too old. Soul may have been a love letter to New York City, but it also felt like a thank you note to all of us.
Source: Soul (Disney/Pixar) (2020)