Soul – Finally a Disney Cartoon with Middle-Aged Failures in Mind

I might have jumped the gun when a couple months ago I wrote that Borat 2 should sweep all the Oscars. While that comedy was sheer genius, there might be a new contender for best movie of this God awful year of 2020. A little movie with a $150,000,000 budget in  Soul.

The pecking order between the two movies all depends on whether you think sobs have more cinematic value than laughs. While your gut might get busted from chuckling too hard at Borat,  your tear ducts will get just as much of a workout from Soul.

But maybe I’m biased. After nearly a century of Disney cartoons revolving around princesses looking for true love or young dudes looking for their place in the world, we finally have a cartoon centered around someone on the wrong side of 40. Even closer to home for me is that the protagonist, Joe Gardner is a failed artist. This jazz musician finally gets a big break, only in classic cartoon fashion to fall down a manhole to his death. Joe’s soul is then sent to the afterlife where he has to struggle to find a way to cheat death.

As I type this vague summary it boggles my mind that a corporate children’s movie contains such a plot. Instead of genies and Broadway showstoppers, we get existential questions and jazz music. There are still elements of the supernatural and even a talking animal in Soul,  but it is definitely a movie made for the parents suffering midlife crises over their kids.

But that’s not to say kids won’t like it. My seven year old daughter enjoyed Soul enough to watch it twice, even if it didn’t enter her pantheon of Frozen 2 and Tangled.

But if she rewatches Soul in the year 2050, she might enjoy different facets of the movie. She might appreciate the excellence in the animation that Pixar always delivers.  She might enjoy the movie’s musical score, though find it strange that it was co-composed by the guy from Nine Inch Nails.  But most of all she might get a little teary eyed just like her old man, at the moral of the story. If you make your life just about your triumphs and failures, you’re going to miss out on a whole lot.

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David Rolland

David Rolland edits the Jitney blog. He is the author of the novels Yo-Yo & The End of the Century.