SOUL: a review by Ali Skylar

I may be in the minority but I’m not sure I really liked SOUL – as much as I wanted to!

I LOVED the realistic depiction of Manhattan and the characters.

I LOVED that the subject matter was about pre-life, life and death.

I LOVED Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey.

But they kinda of let me down when they went into the ethers.

Maybe as a creative artist (myself a bit older or should I say an experienced artist like the main character) and coming from a family of actors, singers, painters and writers, I was a bit devastated that the minute middle school music teacher and jazz musician, Joe Gardner,  got his big break he then ends up on his way into the afterlife instead of getting ready to make his big debut.

But let me backtrack for a moment.

Pixar is one of my all-time favorite movie making companies. Toy Story 1 was my daughter’s first movie at the theaters.  I’ll never forget this little 6 year old kid, sitting with a tub of popcorn bigger than herself, mesmerized, wide-eyed and amazed every single moment of the film!  

And then there’s Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo (and Finding Dory), Cars and of course Incredibles 1 and Incredibles 2, (my family’s favorites – which we just watched again for the umpteenth time during the holidays.  And BTW: my kids aren’t youngsters anymore – they’re in their 20’s and still loving these movies up).

So I expect a lot from Pixar.  Yes, I’m amazed at the genius of their animation, but mostly, as a writer, I am impressed, appreciative and in awe of their storylines and subject matter.  It’s rare I get turned on by movie storylines – but I am rarely let down by Pixar.

But this time, SOUL just didn’t do it for me.  I didn’t enjoy the animation once Joe leaves earth, or the before/afterlife characters (except for 22 – the little soul who wasn’t interested at first in having anything to do with being “alive.”) or the way the content themes were expressed in the afterlife.  

The before/afterlife themes were just too superficial and not profound enough in a way that I felt represented the more “beingness” of our human as well as our non-physical selves – as expressed by many spiritual teachers.

Funny enough, my son and hubby loved the film, everything about it.  But my daughter and I got a little creeped out by it once Joe left Manhattan, even though we’re both very into spiritual/personal growth subject matter.

Is this film for kids?  Not sure any kid can relate to the main character’s dilemma.  And without a perspective on the before/afterlife, I’m not sure they’ll get the whole “soul” thing.

It actually might confuse kids and create an image of what happens after death and before life that might be a bit disconcerting.  I know some of it confused and made me a bit uncomfortable.  

I’m excited to see if the film creates a dialog between parents and kids about how we get here and where we go after we leave.  Fingers crossed parents can encourage a productive dialog that helps children to feel less frightened about death – and life.

All in all, kudos to Pixar for taking on this subject matter.  We need more uplifting, kind and compassionate films that explore both the before and what comes next after this physical journey on planet earth.

And how timely and serendipitous and applause to Pixar for even broaching this subject matter and bringing it to mainstream attention during our current world reality!  For encouraging the appreciation for every moment of our lives, for every person in our lives, and the little things, every day, that many of us take for granted.

How did the movie resonate with you?  Feel free to comment below.