There are so many parallels between this movie and Wolfwalkers, which is just as well since they are the two main contenders for the 2021 Academy Awards. Both have masterfully innovative animation, but where Wolfwalkers looked back at the old texts and pre-renaissance perspective for inspiration and side-stepped into something new, Soul pushes La Linea and its own work to 11 with Terry, the best non-villain villain since the wind in Kiki’s Delivery Service.
Note also Trent Reznor’s notes bleeping and blooping away in the background. The soundtrack is another thing on par with Wolfwalkers. As you may have seen in the trailers and guessed from the title, most of the music in Soul is jazz, melded with ethereal electro-something.1
Both fumble the narrative: Wolfwalkers' story because it was predictable, Soul’s because incoherence. The presumed big conflict — man v. death — is deemphasized in favor of many small ones: art v. education, passion v. commitment, meaning v. nihilism, hippies v. bureaucrats, moments of inspiration v. the daily grind. It is just too much philosophizing, and this is coming from someone who has, from the age of six, been called a philosopher by exasperated adults.2
Not that the story is bad, it is just not as focused as its closest Pixar ancestor — Inside Out — another villain-less meditation on the internal lives of humans.3 Even so, it takes the top half of the Pixar pantheon, at least a few notches above Docter’s first movie, Up.4 Wish other studios put out things that were half as good this year.
Important to note here that I am tone-deaf. Don’t come to me for music advice. ↩︎
A more precise term would have been a sophist, but what did they know? ↩︎
Though in this case, sadly, not cats, dogs, and other animals. Do they not have souls, Pete? ↩︎
But not its openning sequence, which are still my favorite five minutes of animation and are now (gasp) eleven years old. ↩︎