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Soul – Review

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A guide to Philosophy, Psychology and Purpose

Disney Pixar's Soul Spirits 2020
Pixar

So, Pixar’s latest offering Soul has skipped the movie theatres and landed straight onto streaming service Disney Plus. But is the film any good? Here’s our review of Soul.

There are few animations that delve into psychological and philosophical concepts. Let alone attempt to grasp the meaning of life itself. Films like Inside Out and Coco occasionally emerge from the woodwork. Connecting us with the psychological mechanisms of our mind. But to use constructs of psychology and philosophy to determine the purpose of life. Wrapped up in a fun-filled animation? That’s a feat only Disney Pixar could have achieved.

Before its Christmas Day release, Soul was already set to become a member of the Pixar big-league movies. The film caused quite a stir amongst Disney fans. Not only was it to be a story delving into the most elusive of life’s questions. The trailer revealed the lead to be African American, a first for the animation giants.

But does Soul live up to the epic hype it created? Is it as philosophical as we were led to believe? Did we switch off our screens at the credits and feel life’s true purpose? Should Moonwind have his own spin-off purely for his philosophies? The last one is a definite.

Let’s delve into the philosophical and psychological thinking underneath this charming animation as I review Soul.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the movie, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Introducing Joe Gardener

At first, the movie appears innocent. A middle-aged Joe Gardener (Jamie Foxx). A teacher of an uncooperative group of band students with no passion for their music. In the world of opposites, Joe couldn’t be further from their passionless motives. His dreams are big. He feels he is beyond the every-day stability life of a teacher brings. But when he finally hits his big break, he falls down a manhole, leaving behind dreams of jazz fame.

To the unsuspecting viewer, this is where the movie takes a drastic turn. The cinematography of the “real life” Joe had fallen from changes. No longer is Joe in human form, he becomes a blue blob-like construct. In a spiritualist mind, he becomes an ectoplasm.

After escaping the escalator, desperate to avoid The Great Beyond. Joe’s soul lands in The Great Before, a place of blue and pink. It is also full of Jerrys, who is “the coming together of all quantised forms of the universe.” And all animated as though drawn by a child. The Great Before is where a young soul’s personality is located before entering the earth.

The great beyond

Wait, personalities are pre-determined? For many years this subject has been examined by theorists. John Locke theorised that a child is born with a “tabula rasa” or blank slate without any data. Whereas Jerry Fodor argued that skills and abilities are present in the brain from birth. Pixar has formed their own theory, and it’s hard-hitting.

Pixar’s theory about the formation of life is very to-the-point. It completely hijacks the idea that through life a child develops their personalities. From their parents, families, environment and culture. Instead, a child finds their “spark” before they can enter the earth.

Joe finds himself thrust into the role of mentor. This is ironic in itself. In his haste to avoid The Great Beyond, Joe picks the name tag of Psychology professor Dr Börgensson. What’s more ironic, is that he is given the task of mentoring the notoriously taxing 22 (Tina Fey). A soul who seems to have avoided going to earth for centuries, as shown in her portfolio of mentors. The list contains a collection of philosophical, historical, political, and psychological theorists.

Tackling 22

22 is a complex figure. In this sense, Pixar has stuck to the usual script of “hard to reach” character who finds their way by the end of the story. Though, 22 is complicated in a whole different way. The soul is formless, lacks personality, doesn’t have a purpose and refuses to conform. And yet, as a viewer we can’t help but relate to the little blob. Could this be a piece of philosophical insight? Perhaps we are meant to accept face-value rather than relying on external factors. 22 may be an ectoplasm, but one with many layers.

There is also the problem of The Great Before and its realism. In 22’s deciding speech to Joe, the soul states that “This whole place is hypothetical. You can’t crush a soul here. That’s what earth is for.” Alongside the obvious. Pixar may have laid an easter egg here. A miniature nod to the fact that the whole universe they created is hypothetical. As far as philosophy goes, this is up there with Descartes notions of being.

Regardless of the potential hidden meanings behind Soul simply watching it brings a sense of ease in this review. It’s an easy watch with a fantastic storyline. The cast is phenomenal, and the cinematography is excellent. I would implore anyone to add it to their watch list.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 8/10


Thank you for reading our review of Soul. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read more about Soul HERE.

Read IMDB information about Soul HERE.

Soul is streaming now on Disney Plus.

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9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies

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Wayne's World image
Paramount Pictures

There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.

1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)

Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.

2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.

3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)

You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.

4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.

5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)

Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.

6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)

I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.

7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)

This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.

8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)

We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.

9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)

Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.


That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.


Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.

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