Pixar’s new movie Soul has gone all-in of the feels while forgetting to tell a fun story along the way. Gone are the days of Toy Story and Monsters Inc. Now it is merely the emotional parts of Coco and Onward mixed with the cerebral incoherence of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The story is about a guy named Joe, a middle school music teacher that years to play jazz piano in a juke joint with professional musicians. When he gets his big break to do this he falls down an open manhole into the sewer below and his soul (which looks like an Inside Out character) awakens in Heaven (I think?).
Joe steals the nametag of a Swiss shrink that is supposed to mentor a soul on what it means to live life on Earth. He’s assigned 22 (voiced by Tina Fey), a nihilistic soul that hates everything and just wants to stay where she is and hang out forever. She’s the most obnoxious movie character since Mike Myers played The Cat in the Hat.
When Joe learns he didn’t die but is merely in a coma he tries to escape to get back to his boy and nightclub act. Unfortunately, 22 comes along for the ride and she ends up in Joe’s body and Joe ends up in the body of a cat.
The rest of the movie is about Joe getting back into his body and 22 finding out her purpose/the meaning of life (so does Joe, by the way).
All of the stuff in Heaven is just weird. All of the early stuff in that setting is like some sort of mixture of Defending Your Life and Inside Out without any clarity of what is happening, which is what Joe is going through so you are seeing it from his perspective but it could’ve been done with better (any) exposition. Did I mention there are these weird Picasso drawing characters, one of which that mumbles and can barely be understood?
The mixed-up body stuff is nothing you haven’t seen before in movies like All of Me, Freaky Friday, and Vice Versa from a narrative/comedic standpoint except they used a talking animal this time.
The inner-city setting and predominately black cast are fine and the movie does its best to incorporate black culture into the story but let’s be honest. Disney is a soulless corporation and I’m sure some beancounter committee came up with this story by saying things like “Black people like jazz music, put that in,” and “we need a scene in a barbershop otherwise we won’t authentic enough to tap into the potential revenue of this underperforming demographic.”
I’m cynical and I miss John “#Metoo” Lasseter. Bob Iger probably does too.
Soul isn’t terrible, but it isn’t up to the quality one would expect from Pixar. This movie just doesn’t have the sincerety you expect from this brand. It probably never will again, honestly.