Soul searching with one of Pixar’s newest movies

Whenever we watch the lamp jump on the “i” in “Pixar,” we know a good movie is coming. The animation studio is known for their countless well-told stories that immerse people from all ages in the worlds of their characters. Pixar movies teach kids and adults alike important life lessons, and the studio’s newest movie “Soul” is no exception.

When I watched the trailer, I thought it would be just another kids movie. We all know the genre tends to have a certain storyline: A character is down in life, encounters obstacles but is able to turn things around and learn more about life by the end of it.

We’re promptly introduced to Joe Gardner, a music teacher who dreams of becoming a famous jazz artist. Ten minutes in, Joe falls into a pothole and goes into a coma. His soul, a turquoise anthropomorphic blob, is then dumped onto a staircase in the middle of space, moving straight toward a bright light. 

Confronted with his mortality, Joe remains thoroughly convinced that he still has more living to do. He soon meets 22, an unborn soul who has no desire to live on Earth as a human, and the two try to figure out how to get Joe back to his body on Earth. Along the way, both Joe and 22 realize what makes life worth living. The one message that stood out to me the most was to appreciate the little things we typically take for granted.

Considering Pixar usually produces movies geared toward younger age groups, “Soul” was much more profound than I expected. There are many kids movies that include death or mention it, but none address it so directly. Usually in movies, when a character dies, they die and that’s that. But here we follow Joe as he questions death itself and confronts the question, “What is the meaning of life?” 

On one hand, “Soul” had the structure of any other good kids movie. It had a compelling plot, engaging characters and heartfelt life lessons. Personally, Jerry and Terry, two soul sorters, are my favorite characters for their sense of humor. However, it is different in that I don’t think kids would fully understand what its message is. They can definitely appreciate its design and plot, but I don’t think children are focusing on what makes life worth living. 

But as a teenager on the brink of adulthood, “Soul” stirred up a lot of emotions. It was equally fascinating and anxiety-inducing to watch a movie bringing up the questions I was already asking myself. I found myself very conflicted at times when a character would deliver a joke, but I was too wrapped up in my own convoluted thoughts to appreciate it.

Being a senior set to graduate and join “the real world” in a couple months, I’ve recently spent a lot of time wondering, “Well, what am I going to do with my one shot at life?” I had watched the movie wanting an escape from reality, not to be reminded of my own ticking timeline. Even though I did not find the getaway I was looking for, “Soul” proved to be a good segue to talking to others about those tough life questions. 

As it goes into deeper topics, the movie begs us to ask: Who were the creators trying to reach? Children and families, evidently, but I also think there’s a possibility that Pixar is trying to mature with the audience who watched their widely successful movies in the late 90’s to early 2000’s. Their original audience has grown up and maybe they are trying to grow up with them.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense that the studio is thinking outside the box in terms of typical movie genres. Pixar has a long history of massively popular movies, giving them the freedom to make a movie like “Soul,” that pushes traditional movie genres.

Kids’ movies or not, the story “Soul” tells is truly universal. The topics it addresses may seem scary, but it just goes to show how we’re all trying to make sense of life. 

Whether you’ve been sitting on philosophical questions for some time or just want to see what universe Pixar has created this time, this movie is definitely worth watching. “Soul” will make you laugh, think, maybe even cry. Then again, that’s what Pixar movies do.