Pixar O.G. and now Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter touched our hearts with Up, then plumbed the intricacies of the human mind in Inside Out. It would follow, then, that his next movie would be Soul.
Together, these are arguably the most grown-up entries in the Pixar canon, not for any sort of overly mature content, but rather for their sophisticated themes and storytelling. And Soul might be the most adult-skewing: It’s the longest of the three, exploring The Great Hereafter and even “The Great Before,” namely where souls originate prior to their arrival on Earth. This concept requires quite a bit of exposition, and it’s executed masterfully by Docter, co-writer/co-director Kemp Powers, and co-writer Mike Jones, through bold visuals and pithy gags.
Soul introduces us to Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a middle school band teacher with dreams of playing jazz piano. Joe finally lands the gig of a lifetime, which puts him at a personal crossroads, but an unfortunate occurrence derails his biggest day ever. In scrambling to avoid his otherworldly new fate, he suddenly finds himself serving as the mentor for an exasperating noob named 22 who can’t seem to find the necessary motivation to begin life in the mortal world. In the pantheon of mismatched buddy comedies, we’re now given a soul that doesn’t want to die stuck with a soul who doesn’t want to live. Soul is incredibly smart, moving, and wickedly funny, and anyone doubting the mad skills of Tina Fey, should look no further than her inspired portrayal of 22.
Owing to the ongoing COVID pandemic, Soul skipped theaters and went straight to streaming on Disney+ during the 2020 holiday season. Now on disc, the 2.39:1 image dazzles not only with its detail (for fun, freeze-frame the wall of nametags from 22’s previous, failed mentors) but through the exquisite realism of its light and shading. High dynamic range (HDR10 here, though the streaming version offers Dolby Vision) sublimely manipulates brightness—tiny stars and specks of astral energy stand out. There are a fair number of black voids, and one late scene shows a character made of blacks and grays and dust and wind, all of it well-defined and plain to see. The story is built upon abstract concepts and employs an abstract art style to help convey the mood, though it’s contrasted with photo- realistic locations in a simulated New York City. Pixar has been on the cutting edge of animation since its earliest days, and Soul, the culmination of those breakthroughs, represents the latest evolution in computer-generated movement, texture, and lighting.
Soul‘s Dolby Atmos soundtrack highlights music in a clever manner. The presence of the jazz compositions/arrangements by Jon Batiste is exceptional, and they engage us with their clarity and dynamics “live” within a scene and serve as a counterpoint to the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. It’s an unprecedented and stunning collaboration, and the results are well-balanced with the dialogue and sound effects.
Bonus content on the included regular HD Blu-ray version of the movie (commentary by Docter, Powers, and producer Dana Murray, plus two featurettes and some surprises) is on par with recent Pixar 4K releases, while a second Blu-ray platter offers deleted scenes and more featurettes. All these special features—even the commentary—and more are available with the Movies Anywhere digital copy, accessible via the supplied code.
Pixar fans—and jazz aficionados—will surely want to add Soul to their stacks.
ULTRA HD BLU-RAY
STUDIO: Disney, 2020
ASPECT RATIO: 2.39:1
HDR FORMAT: HDR10
AUDIO FORMAT: Dolby Atmos with TrueHD 7.1 core
LENGTH: 101 mins.
DIRECTOR: Pete Docter
STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton, Rachel House, Alice Braga, Angela Bassett
Published at Fri, 14 May 2021 16:06:12 +0000