Pixar is no stranger to making movies that dive into the afterlife, so when Soul was released, I was excited to watch it with my kids. Soul is about a music teacher named Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) who is only teaching music until his career as a Jazz musician takes off. At its core, Soul takes a look at what it is like to be middle-aged with a dwindling dream. It centers around the struggle of “making it big” or settling for the safe job. While watching this film, I often wondered if they made this for my children, or for me. Any middle-aged person who has had a grandiose dream pushed to the side for the 9 to 5 gig, will feel their heart strings being tugged at while watching Soul. I feel this could almost be a “companion” piece to the 2015 Pixar film Inside Out, if only in the emotional connection an audience can have with the characters in the film.
Joe, after just receiving word that he is being offered a full-time position at the school where he teaches music, ALSO gets a call from Curly (Questlove), a former student who is giving Joe a chance to audition for a famed musician (Angela Bassett). Joe does not want to give up on his dream, no matter how many people encourage him to take the “safe gig” and goes to the audition. He nails the gig and walks out of the night club into what he can only image to be the best years of his life, only to fall down a manhole and die. Joe is now a ghost and when just about everyone else would be terrified that they just lost their life, all this ghost wants to do is figure out how to still do his gig.
The film is ultimately about a man having a midlife crisis (to death) and the struggles he is dealing with deciding on what direction to go, even when the choice is ultimately taken away from him. I see it more as a sneaky way of showing parents how to deal with giving up on their dreams more than it is about teaching kids about death, which is what I assumed the film would be about. It is spectacularly shot of course with beautiful animation and out of this world voice acting. Pixar is known for bringing its views an emotional response that typically ends with a popcorn bucket full of tears, and all though this may not have been the direction I felt they were going, this film is no different. In the end, we get to see that all though we as adults, who have possibly never achieved our dreams, feel as though our lives are meaningless and easily forgotten, only in the end to see the value we brought and the abundance of pain that is caused by our deaths. Well done Pixar, all though this film may have been a little too deep and disconnected from my children, you pricked my heart where it needed, and I left feeling emotional. I hope that this film is one that sticks with my children and lets them understand that it is not always the life we think we are (or are not) living that has meaning, but the life’s around us.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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