Soul

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Soul Movie Poster Image
 Popular with kidsParents recommend
Amazing animation, serious themes in existential dramedy.
  • PG
  • 2021
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 75 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 190 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Young viewers will learn a bit about jazz music, what it means to be mentored, and what motivates people to live their best life.

Positive Messages

Promotes following your dreams, but not at the exclusion of human connections and relationships. Encourages not taking life for granted and savoring small, everyday moments. Strong family relationships and friendships are highlighted, as are having passions and interests. No life is meaningless if you feel love and have friendships. One person's "spark" may not fullfil another; we all have our own purpose to find. Themes also include compassion, empathy, perseverance.

Positive Role Models

Joe is a dedicated teacher, a disciplined musician, a devoted son. He's committed to 22 even when it endangers his own humanity. 22 grows as a character, discovers small joys of humanity. Soul is the first Pixar movie with a Black main character; majority of human characters are also Black. Several strong female characters, as well as genderless unborn/other souls.

Violence & Scariness

Joe falls down a manhole (nongraphic), and his body appears dead or dying. He's hospitalized and looks disshelved/jittery while walking around the city. It seems like Joe has died in a couple of scenes. Physical comedy as Joe makes his way around NYC with another soul controlling his body. 

Sexy Stuff
Language

One use of "crap." "My life was meaningless." Also "meh," "idiot," "imbecile," "selfish," "self-absorbed," "you ruin everything," "you have no purpose."

Consumerism

Mercedes decal.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Soul is Pixar's thought-provoking animated movie about a middle-aged band teacher named Joe (voiced by Jamie Foxx) who nearly dies and gets stuck in the "Great Before" section of the afterlife (where unborn souls prepare to be assigned a trip to Earth) and then tries to make his way back to his body. It's beautiful and creative, with themes of compassion, empathy, and perseverance, but it's likely to resonate more with adults who've wondered about the meaning of life than with little kids. And while there's no real violence, the movie makes it ambiguous whether Joe is dead or alive, which could upset or confuse some younger viewers. There are also philosophical themes about the meaning of life that might go over kids' heads, as well as arguments and a bit of insult language ("imbecile," "idiot," "self-absorbed," etc.). This is Pixar's first movie with a Black main character, and the all-star voice cast includes Angela Bassett, Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, and Questlove (plus Tina Fey) and features jazz music composed and supervised by Jon Baptiste, as well as a score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMsberann December 26, 2020

Beautiful movie, but maybe a little too adult for younger kids!

I thought the movie was beautiful! It has a great message about understanding the difference between your purpose and your sparkle in life. However, I think the... Continue reading
Parent of a 5-year-old Written byJonathan F. December 31, 2020

Wonderful family movie

Watched it with the entire family. Great movie about life, purpose and how to make the most of it. Comes with great characters, music and funny moments.
Teen, 14 years old Written byuark.13 December 30, 2020

What are these people talking about

First off the movie was one of the best pixar movies ive ever seen, and ive seen a lot. The plot was a little heavy but the did a fantastic job of making it mor... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bya kids POV December 29, 2020

Soul Takes the Crown for the Worst Pixar Movie

Pixar's soul is a movie that will be enjoyed by only a handful of people. It has several plot holes, no target audience and unlike other Pixar movies the m... Continue reading

What's the story?

Disney/Pixar's SOUL is the story of Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx), a pianist who is offered a steady full-time job teaching middle school band but is ambivalent about it because he's been pursuing a professional music career for many years. On the same day he gets the job offer, Joe unexpectedly lands a plum gig playing with a famous saxophonist (Angela Bassett). Right after getting this amazing news, Joe falls into a manhole -- and the next thing he knows, his soul is on an escalator to the Great Beyond. But Joe isn't ready to go: His dream had finally come true! So he fights his way into the Great Beyond, a trippy, colorful, ethereal place where unborn souls reside until they've acquired not only the personality traits they'll have once they're assigned to a human body but also an indefinable "spark" for life. New souls are given mentors (the souls of notable people who've died) to help them prepare for their journey as humans. Joe is mistaken for a mentor and assigned to "troubled" unborn soul 22 (Tina Fey), who's outlasted hundreds of other mentors (from Gandhi and Marie Curie to Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln) and has yet to find her spark and earn her ticket to Earth. Joe, still obsessed with making his upcoming gig, must find a way to inspire 22 and get back to Earth.  

Is it any good?

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 is fully centered on a Black main character's experiences. And Joe isn't going to, as Lin-Manuel Miranda put it so eloquently 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, 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 (Fey is brilliant as the sassy unborn soul), 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-experiences authenticity to the film. The main criticism of Soul is that it's unlikely to appeal to litle kids as much as it will to teens and adults (kind of like Ratatouille), and that 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."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Soul's philosophical themesWhat do you see as the movie's messages about how to live a meaningful life? How does that goal vary for different people?

  • How do the characters demonstrate compassion, empathy, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths? Do you consider anyone a role model?

  • Why is it important for the characters in movies and TV shows to be diverse?

  • How does Soul compare to other Pixar movies you've seen? Who do you think its target audience is?

Movie details

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