Soul: co-directors Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ animated film manages to tell an entertaining, psychedelic, emotionally effective, and thematically rich story, all that once, all the while creating two amazingly beautiful and distinctive worlds. The story of a man fighting to fulfill his life dream after his untimely demise, of sorts, is above all a treatise of what makes people tick, and while the ultimate message is simple enough, it’s mesmerizing to watch it get there. The metaphysical aspects of the journey are expressed in an abstract and trippy way that is, at the same time, serene and beautiful, peaceful and frightening. The physical side takes place in an incredibly realistic New York City, one where its sights, sounds, textures can all be instantly recognizable. Music, jazz in particular, is an essential part of the journey, and as such it’s very welcome to see the film embrace the Black culture to the extent it does, especially as it’s not to the exclusion of others. The character design for that part of the film is stylized but warm and respectful, with a large number of individuals that never seem to have been made in bulk. The film sports a sense of humour that is varied; there is some physical slapstick, which is somewhat expected but still fully functional, but there are also a number of subtler, surprising jokes as well. Everything about the animation is nearly perfect, such as the way everything is lit. The music, naturally, is excellent, both the more ethereal musical score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and the jazzy compositions by Jon Batiste. Voice acting is great: Jamie Foxx is subdued as the protagonist, while Tina Fey is less so as the rebellious sidekick/mentee; they show some great chemistry as the pair of characters we could accompany for much longer. The supporting cast is filled with performers turning in good acting, as well.
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