If you need a nice, heartwarming family movie to start the year with, you can consider Soul, the latest animated movie by Pixar, the legendary studio that has amazed and delighted families for more than a decade. The makers of Up and Inside Out were back again, and they did not disappoint. But be warned, the movie may be a bit hard to understand for too young kids, since it has quite a lot of layers, and the concepts are quite abstract, in the same vein as Inside Out, and very far from the like of Moana or Frozen.
The movie is about the journey of 2 souls, and the context is switched back and forth between the land of the souls and the land of the living. Although the land of the living is quite realistic and straightforward, and the story and events there are quite comprehensible, the same cannot be said of the land of the souls. Credits must be given to the creators of the movie, who tried to emphasise the stark difference between the 2 realms, by making the latter much more abstract, with shapes and objects that look a bit like Candy Crush land or an alien planet. They nailed it perfectly on that part, and the 2 worlds were very much distinguishable. However, I feel what happened in the soul world and the concept of different zones in that world was quite hard to understand for small kids (and even harder to explain for parents). The movie was deep and meaningful, but because of that, it required a certain level of maturity in order to fully enjoy it.
There were some funny scenes in the movie that made us laugh, like the part where 22 drove her past mentors nut, or when Joe’s soul tried to eat the slice of pizza, and there were also touching moments that could make those who are soft-hearted cry to teary eyed a little. That’s the beauty of many Pixar movies. They make us laugh. They make us cry. They entertain us, but at the same time they make us sit back and think a little, in order to fully comprehend the plots. And that’s why they have won so many awards. Their movies are not those cheap, easy, straight-to-your-face animations with no attention to the storylines at all. Except for just a few, their movies have some messages, some ideas or morals that they want to weave into the actions and dialogues, so that audience will get back something that enrich their lives in exchange for the time, effort and money they put into going to the cinema and sitting there for 2 hours to watch the events unfold. And that what makes many people love their movies, young and old, adults and children.
I love the way the Pixar wizards explain difficult concepts in a very visual and user-friendly way. The ideas of death, of the great beyond and the great before, and the stairway to heaven has appeared in many texts and movies before, but never in a cartoon, and they normally appeared quite morbid and creepy, even scary, but in Soul, they did not look scary at all, even friendly and welcoming. And the depiction of the out of body experience when one is in the zone, as well as the misery of those lost souls who have lost their purpose and the meaning of their lives was very creative, clever and amazingly original. Hopefully those children who watched this movie will grow up with a little more appreciation of life, and a little bit less worried and scared of what will be coming after that.
The main message of the movie is to treasure the life you have, every moment of it, and don’t waste your time, because it can end abruptly anytime, and and any moment can be our last. Life is a journey, not a destination, and you should always aspire to do what makes you the person you want to become, instead of chasing a lofty goal, for that goal may not even be what makes you happy in the end. The same idea was shared by James Clear in his best seller Atomic Habits: Focus on your habits, and your identity, not your goals. After all, achieving the goal should not be a means to an end, and it may make you feel a loss of motivation and stop you from working hard and kicking in a feeling of complacency.
Overall, it’s a nice and meaningful movie for the whole family. It will be perceived a bit differently by people of different ages, but I strongly believe that everyone will get something for themselves. It remains to be seen whether the movie will become a classic, like Up, Inside Out or Toy Story, but one thing for sure, it will warm your heart in these winter days and make you feel that life is still beautiful.