Why is it that every time Disney makes a movie with a black central character that character is inevitably changed into something else? Tiana of The Princess and the Frog was changed into a frog and Paul, the protagonist of Soul, is turned into a semi-transparent marshmallow. Granted, as a man so white I am my own light source, I am probably not the person who should be bringing up these observations, but I cannot be the only person making them either.
Soul tells the tale of a middle school band director who dreams of getting his big break in Jazz and, when that break comes, he dies in a freak accident and ends up in the afterlife where, to make a long story short, he accidentally finds himself in the place where new souls are sent to Earth. Now, teaming up with a baby soul named Soul 22, Paul must help her find her purpose so that he can get back to Earth and live his dream.
A lot like Inside Out, Soul is an existential story about what makes us who we are and what our purpose is. There is a lot of trippy visuals, the movie is a metaphorical smorgasbord of imagery and clever writing. This movie is thoughtful and deep when exploring themes of community, finding your purpose, or like most of us, not finding it.
With Soul, more than anything, I felt like I was being lectured about philosophy and purpose. Granted, that’s not a bad thing. A lot of the concepts and questions posed by this movie are valid and fascinating, but I’ll take a story over a lecture any day and that is where Soul left me cold.
That being said, Soul is probably one of the most beautiful and layered movies I’ve ever seen on a visual medium. The colors, fleshtones, lightning… all of it is amazingly detailed. You almost feel like you’re there in the middle of all of it, as if you could walk into the frame anytime you want to. The streets of New York, the people, the animals, the sunlight, the city lights… all of it is simply breathtaking.
And then you have the afterlife which is so wonderfully abstract and goofy, with walking talking Picasso paintings and entire landscapes that look like they’re made of pillows and sponges. It’s all a feast for the eyes.
Soul is deep, beautiful, and thoughtful, a mature and tempered reflection and exploration of what it means to be a person, and that is more than enough for me to give it a recommendation.