What is the purpose of your life?

Does Pixar’s Soul hold up to some of Pixar’s finest?



Cover of Pixar’s Soul

Soul takes a deep dive into the philosophy of life.

It examines what it means to be alive and live. It is very similar to Sean Penn’s Into The Wild.

But Pixar has an incredible way to take very deep and complicated topics and portray them in a simple way enjoyable for anybody that may be watching. Ratatouille, a movie about a rat with a dream to become a chef, is one of the best movies Pixar has ever made despite having such an obscure plot. Because Pixar can use these concepts and strange plots to tell a fantastic story that appeals to kids and adults alike. Soul is no different with a beautiful deep dive into what it means to live.

Joe Gardener is voiced by Jamie Foxx.

Soul follows our main character Joe Gardener, a middle school band teacher who aspires to be a jazz musician. Joe gets his big break and gets the gig of his life, only to die minutes later.

He is sent to the great before where he is the mentor of a soul named 22, and he tries to help her find her “spark”; the last and most important part of ones personality. Along the way he learns that his life has meant nothing, as he has only failed at anything he’s ever aspired for. He is sent back to earth only to find himself in control of a cat’s body and 22 is in his body. Eventually he gets back into his body, leaving 22 in the great before forever, never to become a human.

He goes to the gig and is loved by everyone. But afterwards, he doesn’t feel full like he thought he would, and he realizes that he has to do the right thing and give 22 her chance at life. So he goes back to give 22 the chance at life that he stole from her. Soul looks into life very deeply with the idea of a “spark”. Joe believes that the spark is the purpose of life, why you exist. However after he fulfills his spark getting everything he ever wanted his life feels purposeless. It is devoid of meaning and he feels no fulfillment after achieving his life goal. This is an excellent way to show that your hobby or main thing that makes you who you are is not your purpose, but only what makes you you. 

Soul is a very special and important movie for its representation of African American characters. Previously very few animated movies had a lead African American character so this movie was very important to give that representation, and Pixar had to nail it. While Soul isn’t the deep dive into African American culture as some hoped, like Coco was for Spanish culture, it does serve as a great addition for African American representation since the whole point of the movie does not revolve around race. Joe is a troubled character just like Woody, or Remy, or T’challa; he just happens to be black.

Soul does not revolve around the troubles being black has caused him, but just treats him like any other character. While scenes like the barber shop scene or the jazz scenes are good examples of black culture that was not extremely present until recent years.

Joe Gardener is the main character in Soul. And he acts as an excellent way to show the meaning of life beyond one’s passion. He is a struggling jazz musician and believes his purpose in life is to play music. After doing anything, even escaping death to be able to take his shot at being a jazz musician he learns that life isn’t only about one’s passion.

For example, when 22 talks with the barber about life he tells him it was nice to talk with him about something other than jazz, showing that there’s more to life than jazz. After this Joe accomplishes his goal only to be left feeling empty. And once he gives 22 a chance at life, and is given a second chance himself, he is asked what he will do with his life and he says, “I don’t know but I’m going to live every minute of it.” This shows he has grown past his belief that jazz is all life is about. 

In “the great before,” Joe’s soul is matched with 22 in order to help find her spark. (from pixar.com)

The other main character of the story is 22, an unborn soul. She is particularly uninterested in going to earth and is content living as a soul forever. But when she is forced to live in Joe’s body she falls in love with earth and becomes obsessed with it not wanting to give Joe his body back, so she can have her chance at life. 22 shows Joe that there is more to life than ones spark. She enjoys every tiny thing about life that Joe just considers living. She has appreciation for everything from the massive buildings in New York City to something as small as pizza, and walking. This shows Joe that he has lived life just surviving only enjoying life when he is playing piano, and once he is given his second chance at life he promises to live every minute of it. 22 acts as a great way to show Joe how valuable life is, and how much he should appreciate it. Completing his arc as a character and living the rest of his life fully. 

While Soul is an incredible movie, it is not without flaw. Many were left disappointed that Soul didn’t give the full deep dive into black culture that Coco did into Spanish culture. And some plot holes can make the movie a little frustrating at times. But even with it’s flaws Soul is still a beautiful story with excellent characters, story, score, etc. And I believe it will withstand the test of time and be remembered for years to come.

When sent back to earth, Joe’s body is now inhabited by 22’s soul and Joe is living inside the body of a cat. (pixar.com)

Soul is a marvel of modern animation technology, giving detailed textures to something so small as the hair of every character and making every character completely unique. A massive step in animation considering only 25 years ago Pixar had to use the same model of Andy on four different kids in Toy Story. Soul also has incredible lighting, camera angles, focus, and glare, making the whole movie feel like it was recorded with a real camera, at some points of the movie you can barely even tell it’s animated. 

Soul gives excellent insight into what it means to be alive. And while I believe Soul is a great movie, I don’t believe it quite stacks up to some of Pixar’s finest. Overall Soul gives an excellent story of a man finding what it means to be alive but not much more unlike some of its competition like, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, or Toy Story