We picked up Disney+ so my wife could binge Mandalorian (with me being around too!). Soul recently released and my kids wanted to watch it. Review-ish herein – and you know, spoilers.
First off, this is not a kids movie. Not even remotely close. If you took Inside Out and made it more adult, you’d end up with this. The levels of depth on what it means to be alive are the deepest I’ve ever seen in an animated film. The concept of the “Great Before” is something adults will have trouble fully grasping. Self-determination theory is not a simple matter.
Second, it’s pretty clear that there are two voices behind this film, and that they do not align. The “traditional” Pixar stuff is here, tear jerkers, body swaps, realizations, sacrifices and whatnot. But there’s another important story here, one of being Black. The movie as marketed as the second story being the important one, but it really feels more like window dressing than purpose. Jamie Foxx plays his character for what seems like 20 minutes of the film, then he’s never in his body again.
I am rarely one to advocate for casting choices, actors can be actors and whatnot. In this case, the casting of Tina Fey, in this specific role, is a problem. She does a great job at it, that’s not the issue. It’s that the foundation of the film is that an experienced black person is replaced by an inexperienced white woman, and she succeeds in everything he did not. Casting almost anyone of color in that role (there are many), would have made a big difference in the overall tone of the film. There’s an irony that if this were a colorblind society, this wouldn’t even be something to discuss. Thinking about it more, there are high odds that in the dubbed versions of this film that the casting itself gets sorted out.
It’s a good movie all the same.