Like all film studios, Pixar is not having the year it expected. The company had two big movies scheduled for 2020–Onward, which was set for a March release, and Soul, which would follow in June. But Onward had barely hit theaters before it was pulled from release and rushed onto digital platforms, and by early April it was already available on Disney+.
As for Soul, the release was initially pushed back to November. But last week, Disney confirmed that it will skip a theatrical release entirely, and will debut on Disney+ on Christmas Day. The movie has now screened as part of the London Film Festival, and the first reviews are here.
The film stars Jamie Foxx as Joe, a high school music teacher who, on the day he secures his dream gig playing at a jazz club, falls fatally down a manhole. On the way to the afterlife, Joe’s soul escapes and ends up in the Great Before, where souls are given their personalities before being sent to Earth. But Joe feels he has unfinished business and, with the help of another Soul named 22 (Tina Fey), sets about trying to get back home. So what did the critics think about Soul?
- Movie: Soul
- Directed By: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers
- Written By: Pete Docter, Kemp Powers, Mike Jones
- Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Quest Love, Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, Angela Bassett, Richard Ayoade
- Release Date: December 25
The Hollywood Reporter – No Score
“While the music is still ringing in my ears and the tears still drying, it may be too soon to be sure, but I think the company’s latest feature, Soul, lands somewhere in the top echelons. This densely packed, exquisitely executed and just a teensy bit bat***t film is peak Pixar. It’s a vintage mix of the company’s intricate storytelling, complex emotional intelligence, technical prowess and cerebral whimsy on dexamethasone.”– Leslie Felperin [Full Review]
The Wrap – No Score
“Soul is perhaps the most existentially ambitious film ever attempted by Disney and yet it pops with colorful visuals and gentle wisdom while the story clips along despite the dizzying height of the concept. Only in the final stages do the knots of plot complexity get the better of the characters, but audiences will have been well won over by then.”– Jason Solomons [Full Review]
Empire – 3/5
“For all its vision, though, it’s a little Pixar-lite. It’s a gorgeous 100 minutes, but not a huge emotional journey. The stakes seem strangely low, all things considered, without the big weepy gut punches you might hope for, certainly of the potency that Docter’s unleashed in Up and Inside Out. At times it feels like three films in one, which makes for some tonal zig-zags. For such big ideas, it’s surprisingly slight.”–Alex Godfrey [Full Review]
IndieWire – A-
“For all the ambition driving Soul through its inventive plot, this is still a slick studio product set on an inevitable path to the Capra-like sentimentality of its closing passages, and ends up in a far more predictable place than it starts. Even then, however, Soul remains a captivating journey. Like some of the best jazz compositions, it uses a traditional framework to veer off in many unexpected directions, so that even the inevitable end point feels just right.”–Kaleem Aftab [Full Review]
The Independent – 5/5
“Not only does Soul live up to Pixar’s own impossibly high standards, but it represents the very best the studio has to offer: beauty, humour, heart, and a gut-punch of an existential crisis. The children will laugh and cheer; the adults will sob until their muscles ache.”–Clarisse Loughrey [Full Review]
Total Film – 5/5
“If the free-jazz plotting can seem more invested in the micro-details than the macro-story, there are reasons why. Soul begins by asking questions about finding your life purpose, recalling Mike Wazowski’s desire to scare or Remy’s culinary nose. But another perspective emerges, one likely to leave you blubbing over the tinsel come Christmas. For the Bing Bong-grade finale, Soul hits delicate emotional keys with a seeming ease that only true virtuosos can muster. Peak Pixar, it’ll feed your soul.”–Kevin Harley [Full Review]