Pixar's Soul (2020)

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RyderFlynn

RyderFlynn

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Some time around the late 2000s, Pixar Animation Studios ceased to be the "can't do no wrong" auteurs that produced thought-provoking hits after hits. Somewhere along the line, it lost its soul and was reduced to being just another movie studio. And so, the world watched as we awaited the day when Pixar returns to form. Perhaps it's due to this vigilance that imbues in us an extra layer of stringency in our criticisms.

Ironically, the protagonist of Soul, Joe Gardner, is very much like Pixar studios. He recognizes the craft, he knows it like the back of his hand, but he doesn't really understand the inner beauty of the music, the soul of jazz that embraces someone with the joys of life. He's too caught up in the technicality of the craft, too focused on textbook methods that make jazz function properly.

That's what Pixar movies have been for the past decade, and even now in 2020, it's my opinion that Pixar hasn't returned to its peak yet. That cat comedy schtick, man, it really took away from what could've been the movie of my dreams, the one that I envisioned when I first watched the teaser to the film and what potential it could have as a story. But instead, we get fairy generic comedy routines stagnating the middle parts of the film instead of focusing on Joe and 22's enjoyment of everyday life. I wouldn't mind watching an entire arc of that stuff. Act 2 of the film just wasn't as potent as it should be due to its reliance on tired comedy routines when it could've just been an entire slice-of-life sequence celebrating the mundanities of "regular ol' living."

But then comes Act 3, the final part of our tale, when Joe realizes what he has missed out or possibly forgotten in life, those very simple joys we take for granted: a new haircut, company with your dad, enjoying the morning breeze on a bike, sunrise, fireworks... and of course, the joy of opening a student's eyes to the wonders of life. You start to see during the final parts of the film what it should've been all along. You start to see what it could've been.

And if that's not tragic enough, I didn't really like the final scene either. I feel like a stronger ending would've been Joe being led to his teaching career again, bookending the story with where he started as he learns to appreciate the simple things. As it is, the movie just feels unfinished, like an unpolished draft.

To be clear, I think that 70% of the movie was well done. If you just cut out that 30% of comedy filler and focused more on building the atmosphere as Joe and 22 ride through the joys (and perhaps even the pains) of life, that would've been a stronger story. As it is, it's just another animated movie.

7/10
 
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