(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Soul)
Doug (vo): Let's wrap up this year's Disneycember with Soul. This was another one of those movies that was supposed to be released on the big screen, but then the pandemic happened, so now it's released on Disney+ on Christmas Day. And I think the most appropriate way to start off this review is by saying, Pixar...it's good to have you back. I'm sure you had a movie about Jessie retiring or the Monsters starting an accounting firm, but, man, does this feel like a return to form. It has the emotion, it has the creative ideas, it has great acting, it has phenomenal animation. And all of them feed into each other. It's not like, "Oh, everything was okay, but the animation was really good", or, "Oh, the acting was good, but the story was a little off." No. Everything feels right. It has the vibe that not only did it take a long time to put this together, but everyone legitimately wanted to work on it, a combination of passion, talent, and fresh ideas.
Story[edit | edit source]
Doug (vo): We start off with a music teacher named Joe, played by Jamie Foxx. He's not exactly thrilled with his job, but it pays the bills. However, a giant opportunity is opened up to him. One of his former students tells him that he can be a pianist for one of the best jazz musicians out there. His family, however, doesn't like the idea of him taking a chance on such a risky profession. I mean, being an entertainer is not always the most stable job. All of this kind of doesn't matter, though, because Joe suddenly dies. His soul is supposed to go to the Great Beyond, but he escapes and lands in the Great Before, that is to say, where souls are developed before they're put into human beings. The people in charge mistake Joe for a mentor, so he's assigned to #22, played by Tina Fey. 22 is their most difficult soul because she doesn't want to be alive, so she does everything she can to sabotage her chances of going to Earth. Joe makes a deal with her that if she can get him to Earth, he'll rig it so that she never has to go. Along the way, of course, they come across all sorts of weird places and colorful characters and crazy shenanigans, and maybe discover the meaning of life...uh, no spoilers here.
Review[edit | edit source]
Doug (vo): The vibe most people get out of this is Inside Out meets Coco, and, yeah, I think that's fair. This director has a talent of taking stories that honestly have been done before, but adding kind of a new spin to it.
Doug (vo): With Monsters, Inc., I've seen this before where the monsters are kind of in this office setting and they go under beds and closets and stuff, but had an imaginative childlike lean. The idea of humanized emotions controlling people has also been done before, actually by Disney, too, but he struck a balance of something for both kids and adults.
(We go back to showing clips from Soul)
Doug (vo): Now we have another idea that I'm sure has been done before, but this time, it's leaning mostly towards adults. That is to say, kids can watch it, and, yeah, there's some little hyper-cutesy jokes here and there, but this mostly has an adult lean. Think about it. It's about a soul who doesn't want to die and another soul who doesn't want to live. There's a lot you can read into this. And the places they go so easily tie in to what people are going through, or have gone through, or are going to go through. It's probably the most layered Pixar movie since Inside Out, and for the most part, it really, really works. The parts that don't, I'll admit are a bit more of a personal preference, but I'll get to that in a bit. I really want to talk about the stuff that's great in this first.
(Footage focusing on the film's animation is shown)
Doug (vo): First of all, look at it. This might be Pixar's best-looking movie. I mean, it almost looks like you're just looking at the real world, there just happens to be Pixar characters in it. But even the Pixar characters have these incredible textures and lighting, and it just leaps off the screen. I didn't even see it on the big screen, I saw it on my little TV, and it still looked amazing. I also like the distinct contrast between the real world and the after world. The after world is a lot more simple, but it doesn't mean it's lazy. Look at these designs, I love the way they combined 2D and 3D together, I mean, they're just amazing. So much thought clearly went into how are they gonna make these two universes look different and stand out, and they really succeed.
(Footage focusing on the characters is shown)
Doug (vo): The acting is also top-notch. Jamie Foxx finds that perfect balance between being sincere but also frustrated. He's trying to be patient, he's trying to hold everything together, but he's still not satisfied. And it's finally starting to get to him, especially when it looks like he had his chance to finally be satisfied. His transition from being so goal-based to finding out what really matters happens so naturally, and what I really like is, it doesn't take a lot of words. Yes, there is a scene where he has a big speech talking to his mother, and that's great, he does it wonderfully. But he also knows how to make the shorter lines work and just let the animation take over. There's several amazing scenes where he has to play the piano, and it's like he's transported somewhere else, and I feel like that wouldn't have worked as effectively if his performance wasn't so solid, and I felt like I really had an idea what this guy was about. Tina Fey also does an amazing job. I didn't even know she was in this movie. I was just watching this character and sometimes thinking, "I wonder who's voicing that." But after a while, I didn't care. I was just so getting into her story. What I really like about her performance is that she captures what it's like to kind of be this bratty, frustrated, kid-like character, but she doesn't do a kid voice. It's still clearly a grown woman's voice, but the way she talks and the inflections and the attitude all have the feel of a little kid. I feel like both these characters so easily could've been done wrong and could've been too frustrating, but they really perfect that balance. You understand and relate to what they want, even if what they want seems incredibly different from the other.
(Various clips resume showing)
Doug (vo): But, okay, there are some things that I said were kind of a personal preference thing, and I really stand by that. This is a 4-out-of-4 wonderful movie, one of Pixar's best in years. Honestly, there's only two things that didn't quite sit well with me, and I'm just gonna say it right now, it goes into spoilers. So if you don't want to hear about what happens in the movie, go to this point. (The caption "Spoilers Until 8:55" is shown) I'll even give you a few seconds so it's not ruined for you. Oh, also, head's up. Don't check the comments. They're gonna ruin it for you, too, so don't scroll down if you really don't want to know how it ends. I'm still giving you the few seconds. All right, here we go. I'm gonna go into spoilers. You have fair warning.
(As various clips continue to show, we are also shown a bunch of images and stills)
Doug (vo): My first tiny gripe is, I wish when Joe and 22 went back to Earth, it was a little funnier. I really liked the idea of Joe finding these little things that he remembers liking and having them win 22 over, and I also really like that 22 is not won over by exactly the same things as him, with, like, music. You think she's gonna hear jazz and fall in love, but she doesn't. It's silly things like pizza and the little helicopter leaves falling from trees, silly things like that. But I feel like the comedy had to be a little more punchy. I actually had the same issue with Inside Out, but again, it didn't ruin anything for me, it's just something I felt was missing a little bit.
(We are shown various clips and images focusing on the main character, Joe Gardner)
Doug (vo): And here's the other problem I have. Again, this is a huge spoiler. If you do not want this ruined, skip ahead. I think Joe should've died at the end, or, at the very least, become a mentor. I actually thought that was what they were building up. Remember when 22 was like, "Wow. You're giving up your chance to go to Earth for me?", and he's like, "Yeah, it's worth it." And it looks like he accepts it, he closes his eyes, he smiles, he's ready to go into the Great Beyond, and then suddenly...just kidding, no consequences, you don't lose a thing, start over, Frozen II, it's all good. But, here's the thing. I've talked it over with some friends, and they see it a little differently than I do. They see him as discovering what the meaning of life is, what he should've been focusing on, and now, he's given an opportunity to live it again. I personally saw it as he did live a good life, he just didn't know it. And then, when he thought back about how good he had it, the little things like being a kid, being introduced to music, even introducing his students to summer music. Remember that one kid who grew up and said, "Hey, I have a gig for you", or that one girl that actually got into playing the horn, even though she said she didn't want to, and suddenly did? That all ties in to it. He realizes he had it good and did have a lot of happy moments, he just forgot about them, focusing too much on what he thought his purpose was. But that's another reason why this film is so great. Other people can look at it and say, "No, he was wasting his life, and now he's given a chance to do it again", which...I-I don't know. There's no other people that tried to get off that conveyor belt going to the Great Beyond? I mean, he was the only one? Nobody else was freaked out? This just seems a little odd. I don't know. To me, the story was about accepting your end, even if it is abrupt and not fair. You still had the gift of life that gave you some amazing things, even if the amazing things were small things. I'm actually really curious what you all think, because I get the feeling I'm alone on this. I guess it's kind of the pros and cons of making a movie that has so many layers, you can interpret it in so many ways, but do you think it should've ended with him going to the Great Beyond, and, yeah, that's life, it's unfair, but that's how it is? Or do you think he deserved that second chance? I really want to know what you think about that.
Final thought[edit | edit source]
Doug (vo): But let me also make it very clear, that doesn't ruin the movie at all. Because the film does have so much dimension to it, and can be talked about so much, and you can get so much out of it, I don't think it even comes close to damaging it. This is still one of my Top 5 favorite Pixar movies, maybe Top 3. When people say Disney is the top of the game, the biggest animation studio breaking barriers, these are the kind of films I think of. These are the ones I would rate up there with Studio Ghibli. So, if you haven't put it together yet, check it out. It's an amazing, wonderful, fantastic...I'm just rambling now. Go see it. It's so good.
(Footage of various Disney movies and TV shows play out)
Doug (vo): And, guys, that's it for this year's Disneycember. I think everyone can agree we've really needed some escapism, and, well, Disney's always been pretty good about that. But through that escapism, we can also find quite a bit of realism and a lot of truths. People talk about fantasies and fairy tales and how they're not true, but they also represent what we want to be true, what we hope for. The best Disney always represents a chance, what could be. Even the impossible can sometimes become possible. When they released Snow White so many years ago, did people think something like Soul would be following after that so many years later, something that looks like this or all these other films and shows and whatever? Probably not. And in a year like 2020, we do need hope, and Disney does represent that a lot of the time. Whether it was through technology, ingenuity, or just good old-fashioned imagination, they'll always be there to try and represent our fondest dreams. Thanks, everybody, for watching, and I look forward to doing it again next year.
(The Disneycember logo is shown once more)