Mature messages about the meaning of life and death may elude younger children, but kids are still likely to enjoy the adorable souls and the laughs in Pixar's thoughtful, vividly animated dramedy. It's difficult to fully explain Soul's plot, which takes place half on Earth and half in the after/before-life, but it makes sense as you experience it. Co-directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers (the Black playwright and screenwriter who also wrote One Night in Miami) and based on a script they co-wrote with Mike Jones, the movie follows the experiences of a Black man (Foxx) as well as a lost soul (Fey) on a journey to overcome her insecurities. And Joe isn't going to, as Lin-Manuel Miranda puts it in Hamilton, throw away his shot -- even if that means sneaking his way back to Earth. Foxx's and Fey's voice talents are supported by a wonderful international cast that includes Daveed Diggs, Questlove, Alice Braga, Graham Norton, Wes Studi, and Rachel House (Thor Ragnarok) as a particularly hilarious, rule-following, deadpan accountant for the Great Beyond who knows their tally is off by one person.
Pixar continues to outdo itself on the aesthetic front, and the animation is stellar: Scenes of the dust particles on Joe's piano, the cheese on a New York City pizza, and the fabric on a suit seem so real that it's almost difficult to believe it's animated. And there are plenty of other things to love about the movie, too: the jazz music (supervised and written by Jon Baptiste of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), the banter between Joe and 22, and the heartfelt representation of the Black community (most notably in a barber shop Joe frequents, his relationship with his mother, voiced by Phylicia Rashad, and the circle of jazz performers). Powers' contribution to the screenplay is crucial, as it lends a lived-experience authenticity to these scenes, but his late-stage addition to the filmmaking team didn't magically solve some of the core issues inherent in Joe's story arc and film's prioritization of 22. One thing to consider is that Soul is unlikely to appeal to little kids as much as it will to teens and adults (kind of like Ratatouille), and its messages about pursuing your dreams and what it means to have a spark for life might be a bit too nuanced. Soul may not solve any existential crises, but it will make audiences appreciate this one "wild and precious life."