REVIEW: Pixar’s “Soul” Reminds Viewers to Find “What Makes You You”

A new Pixar masterpiece teaches us how to find our “Soul” purpose in life.

Image courtesy of Disney+.

Image courtesy of Disney+.

Dylan Hobbs-Fernie, Contributing Writer

Editor’s Note: This review was originally in the March 29 “Catching You UP” newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

When Pixar is at its best it is exploring the emotions of its audience, and “Soul” is no different. Released on Disney+ on December 25, 2020, “Soul” explores the true meaning of life and what it means to find “your spark.”

The animated film directed by Pete Docter takes the audience through the biggest day of Joe Gardner’s life. Gardner (voiced by Jaime Foxx) is a middle school jazz teacher who has spent his whole life looking for that one big break in his performing career.

After a successful audition, Gardner lands the gig of his dreams, but one misstep into an open manhole sends him face to face with the “Great Beyond.”

While frantically trying to escape the stairway to the “Great Beyond” Gardner falls into the “Great Before,” the place where new souls develop their personalities before being sent to live their lives on Earth.

It is here that Gardner accidentally becomes the mentor to 22 (voice by Tina Fey), a soul who has no desire to live on Earth and has gone through thousands of famous mentors that tried to help her find her “spark”.

Similar to “Inside Out,” released by Pixar in 2015, “Soul” at its core is a movie about understanding the key aspects of life. “Inside Out” delved into the importance of understanding emotions, and that negative emotions are a key aspect of life. “Soul” explores what it means to be ready to live.

Gardner realizes this when 22 accidentally falls into his body, and the two have to work together to get him ready for his big gig later that evening.

The movie is not just about Gardner playing his dream gig, “Soul” shows what it means to be ready to live life. “Soul” is not about finding one true purpose in life, but showing how the little things make life worth living. After thousands of years in the “Great Before,” 22 finds her desire to live on Earth while exploring New York City in Gardner’s body. Enjoying everything from pepperoni pizza, lollipops, and the leaves falling around her.

The grandeur of a typical Disney Pixar movie release may have been missing for “Soul”, but the magic of Pixar remains as the studio explores “what makes you you”.

However, “Soul” is not without flaw. Less than 15 minutes into the film, Pixar’s first African American protagonist is no longer even a human but a small blue soul. A milestone 25 years in the making wiped away as Gardner spends much of the movie as either a soul or a cat.

The movie remains empowering by showing the importance of finding one’s “spark.”

“Soul” is packed with many tear jerkers, such as Gardener’s realization that he will become a new member of the “Great Beyond,” to the realization that his life had been meaningless before entering the souls world.

“Soul” is a heartwarming movie that shows life is not solely about finding a purpose, but discovering the little things that make life worth living. “Your spark isn’t your purpose. That last box fills in when you’re ready to come live,” said Gardner.

Dylan Hobbs-Fernie is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or @DL.HOBBS01 on Instagram.