Hello, Spongey here.
For the second year in a row, I have to do a general review for a Disney owned film on Christmas Day. They just want to keep me busy while they’re busy trying to take over the world. This should hopefully work for our final general review of 2020, out of the very few we sadly got.
With all this pandemic nonsense raging, many films have moved to VOD or streaming in some way, but generally it has been smaller movies that weren’t expected to be huge hits anyway. Even something like Trolls wasn’t the biggest thing ever. Now we’ve seen a few big movies do that, one example being Disney’s Mulan remake which did that whole surcharge thing that was just a bad idea.
They learned their lesson with this one at least, as it’s all on Disney+ without any of that. However, there’s no theatrical release to go along with it, except for in countries without Disney+. For as dumb as that Warner Bros thing which, it should have been possible to do it for at least this one movie.
I mean, it’s Pixar. That puts it on a far bigger scale than other things that got pushed to streaming. But whatever, I’m not here to complain about business decisions, I’m here to review a movie. From the announcement, this seemed to be an especially interesting one for them.
It’s basically taking the idea of Inside Out and putting it up to eleven, going into the very concept of existence. With the same director Pete Doctor on board, this is sure to be a hall of an experience. I was hyped and after all the delays, I finally get to see how it is.
For the writers, one did One Night in Miami which also came out this year, and the other has this as his first notable writing credit but before that he was a crew member on other Pixar movies, as well working on the English translation of a few Gibhli movies.
That all said, does this manage to be as good as it sounds? Let’s see.
This, is Soul
Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher, has long dreamed of performing jazz music onstage, and finally gets a chance after impressing other jazz musicians during an opening act at the Half Note Club. However, an untimely accident causes Gardner’s soul to be separated from his body and begin to proceed to the Great Beyond, and Gardner manages to escape to the Great Before, a world where souls develop personalities, quirks, and traits before being sent off to Earth. There, Gardner must work with souls in training at the Great Before, such as 22, a soul with a dim view on the concept of life, in order to return to Earth before his body dies.
Get ready for a shocker: I thought this Pixar movie was very good. Okay, that’s not a given for all of them but I mean this is exactly the kind of one where I feel that way. It’s the Coco to Onward’s Cars 3, I suppose. Although I think both deserve more credit but whatever, this is about Soul.
The main “flaw” someone could find is that it still fills in that usual template for Pixar movies that I will admit is not hard to notice once someone has pointed it out. You know, where there is a mismatched pair and at one of them has a certain goal to reach and perhaps it won’t be quite what they really thought it would be in the end. It’s really only a flaw depending on who you are. I know at this point it is hard to shake and the nature of this one does justify it more.
The exact way they do it will make up for it for most but it’s worth noting. As for flaws separate from that, it weirdly felt a bit short. It stops at exactly 90 minutes without credits, and it could have gone on longer. Everything feels fleshed out well as it is but a bit more could have been good, especially at the tail end.
There’s this one girl in the class Joe teaches and if memory serves, we don’t see what happens with her. I may have missed it though but still, just a slight example of how a few more minutes could have helped it a tad.
But that’s about it for notable things to pick at. While it has the usual template, it ends up using it well. This has a lot in common with Inside Out and mostly in a good way. Like that one, we get creativity takes on abstract concepts with an interesting world. Some parts of The Great Before as what you’d expect the general design is neat, especially the designs for these mentors that have a 2D look to them.
Speaking of the animation, some of the designs are slightly more unique from the usual, like how Joe’s fact is a kind of…puffy, I guess is the right word? Looks that way to me anyway. Despite generally doing realism during the real world stuff, there is cartoon-y stuff like the animation on Joe during one section.
And before I forget, the music is great. The jazz music is good of course but the actual score captures that odd quality of the Great Before and makes the emotional moments work even better.
They milk this concept for good humor as well, like one bit sports fan will get a kick out of. But at the center, this is a character driven and fleshes out Joe and 22 well. His life ends as abruptly as it seems in the trailer but over the course of the movie we do find out more about his life.
There’s a turn that happens that I wasn’t sure about at first but ended up being good with how it eventually plays into the theme and it keeps the story from being too repetitive. It also leads to that really good scene at a barber’s that was pretty fun and interesting. Both Joe and 22 are likable and relatable characters.
Joe wants to get to what he feels is his purpose, especially since his life has been stripped away from him. 22 is a snarky one who doesn’t think life will be worth it and naturally that causes friction. But these points of view work together well and they way they help each other learn the lesson is solid. So while it has a typical pairing, the way it plays into the story makes up for that.
Then we get to that lesson, and that is what makes this movie a bit more special. I can’t spoil it but it’s another aspect that is like Inside Out. Both have a big message that I imagine a lot people will really appreciate. On paper, it sounds simple. Stupidly simple, even. But the execution makes it very profound.
It’s the kind of message that a lot of people need. While it will hit harder with adults, especially ones around my age, it is important for kids to hear it before they get hit with reality in adulthood. There were actually concerns about if this would be a bit complicated for kids but it has that usual family friendly touch that will make it work for them, even if they may not realize what everything means until later.
Honestly, I imagine if it didn’t need to be a family movie, it could gone even more into the themes but what we have works. It’s certainly the kind of message I needed to hear. Maybe not at this exact moment but just in general.
So yeah, for me the way that plays really brings this one up. As a whole, Soul does use the Pixar formula and can be a bit too short which will cause slight divide for those more cfritical. But if you can forgive that, you’ll find it to be a really solid experience. The concept is used for some creative set pieces and good humor, and gives us really good animation, great music, and likable characters with a powerful message a lot of people will appreciate.
I’m glad 2020 general reviews ended on this one, as it’s just the kind of movie I needed. I don’t need to say it’s a must see but it is worth getting Disney+ if you can. Really wish I get to see in theaters but as we see in the movie, sometimes life throws you curveballs and you gotta live with them.
It on the edge but the way the message played out made it get to there for me. Definitely one I very much enjoyed and will be thinking about for awhile. Also, there is a post credits scene that is cute…but the wording has not aged well lol.
I will have an LB review for Wonder Woman 1984 but as far as the blog goes, this ends 2020 in film.
It also ends 2020’s animation….yeah, for obvious reasons it was an odd year that is hard to judge. I’d call this is a middle of the road year but plenty got pushed back so who knows what it would be like in a normal world? I can’t imagine it being super different but either way it’s a smaller list. From what we got, most of it is just okay. Mostly fine-ish but not too much above that. The ones I called Decent or so I still like, just not a lot. Thankfully even in a year like this we had stand outs. So..ranking time!
Homeward: Yep, The Asylum returned with a cash in of Onward. My view is skewed by how it is a huge step up from Trolland, with the animation being merely kinda bad. But the movie is still blah with a weak plot, weak characters and a way too late to be here Tom Green. And no discount Gay Cop!
Fe@rless: Yes, that’s the title. Vanguard returns yet another peice of mediocrity that could have been fun but is instead dull and very confusing. You’d think it would be about going inside but instead the game like…happens to be about things that happen to exist? It’s weird and dumb.
Pets United: I don’t remember a single thing about this.
Animal Crackers: I am so happy from the creators that this finally came out and it does improve as it goes with some fun and creative stuff, but the it feels a bit stuffed and it has wonky pacing. Wish I liked this but ah well.
Trolls World Tour: The writing is on the weak end at times but it’s grown on me with the great animation and charm, plus addition of Rachael Bloom. Not bad for almost killing theaters.
Scoob!: I still like it, worry. It could have worked better as a Scooby Product and maybe the universe stuff could have been better but I still found it to be an enjoyable adventure for the most part.
The Croods A New Age: About the same as the first, with some fun new characters and more of that really good animation, even if it can get tiring after a while.
Happy Halloween Scooby Doo: I didn’t expect one of the direct to video offerings to outclass the big would be theatrical one but leave it to Maxwell Atoms to craft a fun spooky Scooby offering.
Phineas and Ferb Candace Against the Universe: It managed to overcome me being tired after Milo to give me a very fun adventure with solid Candace spotlight, good songs, nice moments and a hilarious joke about the speed of light.
Over the Moon: Netflix gives us a dazzling journey with solid songs and emotion, even if the pacing can be all over the place. Not as great as it wanted to be but it hits hard enough.
We Bare Bears the Movie: Our favorite bear trio makes for a pretty fun road trip adventure that hits the cute feel and themes that made the show so charming.
The Willogughbys: A darkly funny and charming Netflix movie with unique animation, even if it is another with pacing problems.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon: Just a pretty fun sequel to a fun movie.
Onward: COVID may have killed the audience but it’s still a fun adventure with some really solid emotions by the end.
Wolfwalkers: Cartoon Saloon does it again with a charming movie but you’ll hear more about this soon enough, wink wink.
Soul: You are here.
Huh, looking it over we had more notable good offerings than I thought, just mostly on the streaming circuit. For how different this year was, it had some surprises at least.
Now to look to the future, where hopefully we can actually go to the movies. Here is what is currently slated, ranked by my hype for them.
Paw Patrol the Movie: Wait, this is still happening?
Rumble: Can Paramount win this match? …We’ll see, not sure.
Minions the Rise of Gru: The first 2020 hold over on here, I’m up for more Kid Gru at least.
Spirit Untamed: Hey, you know that Spirit Netflix show? It’s gonna be a movie. Yes, really. Here’s hoping I like it at least.
Sing 2: I’m not sure where you after the first one but perhaps it can still work, I did like the first one.
The Addams Family 2: I still like the first one so I hope this get some people on board.
The Boss Baby Family Business: Look, DreamWorks has a good sequel track record. So…come on, hold on, maybe it’ll be good.
Hotel Transylvania 4: I’m conflicted, as I do enjoy these movies a fair bit and even with Gendy gone, the replacement choices are good. It’s just that…I fear this will be Sony’s Ice Age, ya know? Hopefully that doesn’t happen.
Arlo the Alligator the Boy: A cute looking Netflix joint.
Sponge on the Run: Should have been in 2020, just saying.
Wish Dragon: This better finally come out, it sounds cool.
Bobs’ Burgers the Movie: I like the show, so sure.
Ron’s Gone Wrong: Hmm, we’ll see but I’m game.
The Bad Guys: I keep seeing these books in stores and they seem fun so bring it on.
Encanto: A Disney movie following in the steps of Moana, so it should at least be decent fun.
Raya and the Last Dragon: Trailer was cool, hyped for our next WDAS adventure.
Luca: Pixar’s next, and it sounds interesting.
Vivo: A SPA musical? Hell yes.
Wendell & Wild: Hey did you know Henry Selick is finally coming back with this? You should!
My Father’s Dragon: Cartoon Saloon. That is all.
Connected: It looks really cool, and unique, so hopefully it will be the best of the 2020 hold over.
Also, Disney announced fully animated Night at the Museum and Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies that I didn’t know were slated for 2021 until now, looking forward to those two, if they come out in that year anyway.
That about does it for the 2020 general reviews, and 2020’s animation. Hopefully 2021 gives us more movies to pick from. As for next years general reviews, with luck I’ll be back with a SpongeBob film that again, should have bee seen by me already, dang it! Curse my need to be legal.