“Soul” will make you think about life

The animated film “Soul” is the most thought-provoking Pixar film to date. What it lacks in raw entertainment value, it makes up for with its potential to positively influence your life. Unlike many animated children’s films, this movie openly deals with big, difficult questions in creative ways, capturing meaning in a way usually only found in older films.

The protagonist of the film is a middle-school band teacher named Joe, who has always dreamed of becoming a famous jazz musician despite the obstacles in his face. Early in the film, he finds himself in the afterlife, and the story is about him trying to get back so he can achieve his dream.

This film uses interesting ideas to bring to life a film greater than the sum of its parts. It cuts between a fuzzy, Inside-Out(Pixar) style of animation and an ultra-realistic New York City to give the contrast between the spiritual and the earthly. The film touches on complex themes like depression, the purpose of life and dissatisfaction after reaching a lifelong goal. A couple of individual scenes stood out as absolutely fantastic. Without spoiling anything, this includes the montage near the end which is an example of pure emotional storytelling. The depression/lost soul sequence is also very insightful and the haircut scene was fun to watch. The antagonist or “the accountant” is a very fun character, and probably my favorite Pixar “villain”.

The large majority of films I’ve seen from the past two decades are almost completely vacuous. All they accomplish is to give a very temporary satisfaction or thrill, but provide no idea or application to my life. Films that have a real moral conflict or question I can learn from are so much deeper and impact the audience so much more than empty excitement does. “Soul” challenges the audience to recognize the beauty in not only the simple pleasures of life, but also face challenges with an outlook of eternal purpose found not in a set goal or boundary, but a conscious act of purposeful living. It recaptures a piece of meaning from older films, reminiscent of the message in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and it avoids meaningless thrills by focusing on the importance of gratitude, encouragement and purpose.

This film is not gripping or exciting, but it is interesting and important. It manages to touch on complex psychological topics in creative and visually interesting ways. It breaks the norm of meaningless thrill by having very little thrill but a lot of meaning. It will be looked back as either a kid’s movie that tried to do too much, an adult’s movie that does too little or hopefully a meaningful piece of film history that brought intelligence to everyone’s cinema.