Film in review: “Soul (2020)”

Noah Mruz, Film Reviewer

We are all big snowballs.

Everyone was thinking it, I’m not afraid to say it, but let me explain. Everything we come into contact with in life adds to who we are as a person, like how snowflakes add up and pile up into snowballs. These events, or snowflakes, pile up and we then become the big snowballs of people that we all are. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

For a more complete and “normal” way to discuss who we are as people, look to the 2020 Pixar film “Soul”. Soul follows aspiring musician and part-time band teacher Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) as he finally lands a spot as a Jazz pianist, which he has been striving for all his life. On his way home from his audition, Joe falls down a manhole and his soul is sent to the afterlife. As he tries to get back to his body, Joe is tasked with helping a soul named 22 (Tina Fey) find her purpose. The film features amazing vocal acting, an inspiring soundtrack and a story that will make you begin to question what really makes you who you are.

Throughout the entire film, the vocal work never fails to transform in the world of “Soul”. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey have very recognizable voices and they both do an incredible job of immersing themselves into their roles. Voice acting can be much more difficult than traditional acting. Both are hard to master, but when voice acting, you are being fed lines that are either prerecorded or done by someone else. You don’t get to play off of another person, see their reactions or the emotion they’re bringing. Both lead actors do an excellent job making their words believable and heartfelt. As for the rest of the cast, they all do stellar as well, but the “Jerry’s” of the afterlife brought some of the best comedic moments. New Zealanders have the best accent for comedy by far, and it truly brings a lot to the comedy in this film.

The film is grounded in music – it is Joe’s passion after all. The piano work is done by Jon Batiste, who you may recognize from “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” The piano work is truly mesmerizing and drives the emotions of the movie. However, the music in the background of music, or the “non-diegetic sound”, creates a truly astral, otherworldly feeling that sets the tone perfectly. Jon Batiste, as well as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from the band “Nine Inch Nails”, deserve major respect for their work on this film.

Will the film make you want to cry? You’d think “no”, but the story of Soul makes you cry even when you are just confused as to why. I started tearing up three minutes into the film and was very confused, but the first scene of the film just hit a little harder at my childhood than I expected. Throughout the film, you are taken on this grand cosmic journey with Joe and 22. Joe wants to get back to living on Earth while 22 is trying to avoid ever having to live. The disagreements and the jokes that come from it are special, fun and innocent. Joe realizes his selfishness, while 22 is confronted with their inner hardships.

“Soul” ‘s examination of why people feel they are put on this Earth may well spur an existential crisis of your own. For example, you might ponder if you are truly doing what makes you happy, rather than just doing what makes you money. It is sad, heart-wrenching and one of the best stories I’ve seen on film in a while. There are some moments where the plot feels

similar to Pixar’s “Coco,” but the similarities only truly lie within the plots in their most basic forms. The message and feeling of each film are much different in the best way possible.

“Soul” really punches you in the heart and mind – or even the soul – with its fantastic voice acting, music and plot, but it leaves you questioning who you are and what your dreams truly are. Is there a reason we are put here, or is our search for a “reason” something we tell ourselves to get through each day? I’ll leave that for you to decide, but I can tell you that this film is an excellent examination into what makes up a person’s soul. I am giving “Soul” a 4 out of 5. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an existential crisis to return to.