THE GREAT BEFORE — If you're like me, you missing going to the movie theater: the smell of the popcorn, the noise of ice clattering inside a cold cup of Coke, and the thrill of watching a brand new film on the big screen.
I can't wait to get back in the theater and enjoy new movies. But while new films are few and far between right now, there are some new releases out there — including one on Disney+ that everyone needs to see.
"Soul" is Disney and Pixar's latest offering. It was supposed to release in theaters months ago but missed that date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was pushed back again, and then the studios finally decided to release it for everyone on Disney+ on Christmas Day.
While you don't get to enjoy it in the movie at a theater, you can enjoy it at home — and you should because it is easily one of the best movies of 2020. Sure, it doesn't have a lot of competition, but it would be in that running in any other year, as well.
Here is why "Soul" is a wonderful film that all should enjoy.
It's visually and emotionally beautiful
Pixar never ceases to amaze me with their animation. You can see how far they have come since their first outing in 1995 with "Toy Story." The animations seems to get better with every film, and "Soul" is the most recent and therefore the most advanced. The use of color not only pushes the story along but also gives your eyes a feast for 100 minutes.
The attention to detail is also mesmerizing. Watching a character's fingers dance across a piano, seeing how the city of New York lives and breathes around our protagonists, and gazing at the "Great Before" as it comes to life in simplistic and familiar forms is an experience.
"Up," from 2009, had beautiful vistas of adventurous locales, and 2017's "Coco" gave us a gorgeous take on the afterlife, but "Soul" uses simple lines and colors to bring the fantastic to life and truth to the harsh realities of our world to immerse you in the story.
Along with the visual feast, there's an emotional banquet that gives you ups, downs, laughs and tears — just like we've come to expect from Pixar. "Inside Out," co-directed by Pete Docter and released in 2015, affected me greatly on a personal level. That film resonated with me so deeply that I remember just staring at the screen afterward and asking myself, "How did they get inside my head?"
"Soul," also co-directed by Docter, touched me the same way but managed to bring my insecurities to light, as well, telling me: "It's OK. You are wonderful and impactful just the way you are." I then stared at the screen and felt like I had gone through a therapy session that gracefully led me to an essential breakthrough I didn't know was essential.
This movie may not hit you the way it hit me, but the message will resonate and leave you smiling with a tear welling up in your eye.
It's stunningly creative
I love movies and seeing the creative visions of filmmakers come to life. It has long been a dream of mine to make my own films. But since that hasn't worked out yet, I sit at my computer and tell you why I did or didn't like other people's films. Not ideal, but at least I get to watch movies.
Truthfully, there are times my ego and misplaced confidence kicks in as I watch a film and say to myself, "Really? This can get made but I can't get a script made?"
Then there are other films I watch and I think to myself, "Oh, this is why I can't get a film made — because there are absolutely brilliant people out there making movies like this." The two times this has been most clear to me is when I watched Christopher Nolan's "Inception" and now with "Soul."
The creativity behind "Soul" is, simply put, stunning.
The filmmakers have taken things we all know and experience and somehow visualized them in an incredibly unique and tangible way, and then tied these concepts back into the story. I won't ruin anything for those who have yet to see it, but you know when you get in the "zone," so to speak? When you're doing something you enjoy and you almost go to another realm? Well, they have displayed that in "Soul" in a way you'll never forget.
For most, I think the remarkable creativity may inspire you. For me, it depressed me knowing that this is a level I don't think I can ever attain. But I'm so happy there are those out there who can, so that I, along with all of you, can enjoy it.
Kids and adults will both love it
There are plenty of family films out there that skew so much toward the kids that it leaves parents watching the clock waiting for the minutes to tick away so they can move on with their night.
Pixar is usually pretty good at avoiding this, but they really nailed it with "Soul."
Both my wife and I were lost in the story, visuals, humor and emotionality of the film, but it turns out our kids were, as well. We have kids ages 10, 7 and 4, and all three sat transfixed watching the movie; their popcorn sat untouched because they were so enthralled.
The humor is sharp and clever and accessible for old and young alike. The visuals are engrossing, and the story is deep and thoughtful while also staying inviting and easy to follow for younger audiences. This is a perfect family film, which also happens to be pretty close to a perfect film.
Is it worth watching?
"Soul," well, it touched my soul. This movie spoke to me on so many levels and left me in awe. As soon as it ended, I started texting friends and family telling them if they had not seen it yet to do so immediately. And now, I have the great opportunity to do the same on this platform with all of you.
If you have not watched "Soul," watch it now.
The film will likely be up for and win Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, but it needs to also be seriously considered for Best Picture. It's one of the smartest movies I've ever seen, and I will happily sing its praises to all who will hear.
I'd like to thank Docter and Kemp Powers for making such an incredible film for my family and me to enjoy, and I'm excited for all of you to have that same experience.
"Soul" is rated PG for thematic elements and some language.