Joe Gardner is a middle school teacher with a love for jazz music. After a successful audition at the Half Note Club, he suddenly gets into an accident that separates his soul from his body and is transported to the You Seminar, a center in which souls develop and gain passions before being transported to a newborn child. Joe must enlist help from the other souls-in-training, like 22, a soul who has spent eons in the You Seminar, in order to get back to Earth.
There are times during the first quarter when you may believe someone's spiked your drink with an hallucinogenic as Disney's innovative way of capturing our entrance and exit to the world is developed but, as you will find, this is a film to get you thinking and, more importantly, thinking about yourself - reflecting so to speak. Delivered with the usual Pixar excellence, if this doesn't make you realise that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life then rewind, pause and start again, because the message is universally important to all - and that includes you!!!
Reviewed by BabelAlexandria9 / 10
The Ambiguous Spirituality of Soul
A fabulous story about a near-death experience, with some conventional and some interestingly non-conventional statements about life and the afterlife. I really appreciated the major lesson that Joe/Joe's Soul/22 learn over the course of the movie: that one's "spark," or inner motivation, isn't the same as obsession about something (like getting a great gig), because obsession drives many people to become lost souls, despite still living. This observation is made explicitly by one of the "Jerries:" divine(?) beings who control the "Great Before" where souls go before their incarnation, whose straight-line forms suggest computer vector graphics; but they also appeal to quantum mechanics as if to a divine law. These angels of science aren't evil, per se, although the cosmic accountant Terry reminds me of a gnostic demiurge, a being of imperfect knowledge striving for "justice" rather than "mercy." In any case, Soul is enveloped by non-denominational, quasi-scientific, and morally ambiguous pre- and post-mortem realms and their governing angels.
Despite their imperfections, the "Jerries" mean well, and prove their good will at the end, when they offer Joe another chance at living after he selflessly concedes his "badge" (and thus his life) to 22, whom he then shepherds into the next world. For much of the movie, especially when 22 inhabited Joe's body, I was convinced that Joe's body would survive, but that it would no longer be ensouled by his own soul, but by 22. That would have allowed some truly interesting reflections on the nature of personal identity, especially the inner dynamics of major changes to one's motivations and values in life.
Reviewed by MartinHafer8 / 10
I wouldn't show this one to kids...
My summary is NOT because "Soul" is dirty or inappropriate for children. Instead, I say this because it's clearly marketed towards teens and, especially, adults. The usual cute sidekicks and kiddie stuff is missing from this CGI film and the jazz score also might be a bit off-putting to younger audience members.
The story is an existential look at life, our purpose and our passions....not the sort of stuff kids care about and, for that matter, the same could be said of some adults.
Joe is a middle school band teacher who is frustrated because his real ambition is to be in a jazz band. And, just when his big break comes, he ends up dying! All this occurs in the first 10 or so minutes...and the rest is an indescribable journey through the afterlife to investigate these important questions. I could try to explain all this, but it's really tough to explain and you just need to see it for yourself.
The CGI for the film is perfect. It's not all cutesy-cutesy like most CGI films nor is it ultra-realistically creepy like a few (such as "Mars Needs Moms"). It's also nice to see a nice urban contemporary look to the picture. My only complaint, and it's a minor one, is that I think the final portion could have been tightened up a bit. But on the other hand, it's a one of a kind movie...one that is very, very different from Pixar's other products.