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I Revisited Soul For Its First Time In Theaters – And It Was Somehow Even More Magical And Emotional

 Joe Gardner in Soul.
Joe Gardner in Soul.

So Soul was finally in theaters – and I got to see it, and somehow, it was even better.

Plenty of people know me as an animation lover. Whether watching the best 2023 animated movies, the best anime of 2023, or even checking out the best DreamWorks movies, I have always loved it – even the best stop-motion animation films are always on my radar.

But one animation studio tends to rule all: Pixar and the best Pixar animated movies. In my mind, one of their best in recent years – and overall – is Soul, the film about a young man who has a near-death experience and learns how to find his passion in life.

It came out in 2020 – when I'm sure everyone needed a movie like Soul – but never got to go to theaters. However, Disney and Pixar decided to release all the films that came out during the pandemic in theaters for the chance to see them, and I got the opportunity thanks to a close friend. Today, we will talk about that experience – and how it was even better than before.

Questlove as Curly in Soul
Questlove as Curly in Soul

The Music Hit My Ears So Much More In A Theater

I'll preface this by saying that I'm a huge music lover. I grew up in a very musical family, where I either watched my dad sing with his wedding band or viewed old tapes of him touring the world with Gloria Estefan and Willie Colón. We would sit down and watch the best classic musicals together or sing along in cars to songs that I probably shouldn't have been singing at such a young age.

Soul: The 8 Most Emotional Moments From The Pixar Movie

The two main characters of Soul.
The two main characters of Soul.

Here are the most emotional moments of Soul.

Regardless, I've loved music for a long time, and a big part of that has always been jazz, the primary type of music you hear in Soul. It's that type of music that hits down deep and makes you want to get up and dance or just lay back and relax because jazz is such a diverse genre of sound.

Hearing the music the first time around was fun. I love jazz in general, and Jon Batiste was a part of the team working on the music, so I knew it would be great. But there was something about hearing it on a sound system in a theater that felt utterly different and magical.

It was almost like I was transported to a jazz club in New York City, listening to the music right there in front of them. It took me out of my movie theater seat and placed me in a lounge, a drink in my hand, gathered with friends and just enjoying the sounds of plucking on a cello or the ratta-tat-tat of a drum. It hit my ears more.

The Counselors in Soul.
The Counselors in Soul.

The Animation Is So Much More Vibrant

Everyone knows that any animation in a Disney or Pixar movie will always knock it out of the park.

While I (admittedly) have grown tired of the classic CGI animation, that doesn't change the fact that Soul has some beautifully vivid moments that made me gasp in appreciation almost as much as I did rewatching Moana. Watching the city I grew up visiting every weekend, all the time, in glorious animated form on the big screen was unlike anything else.

Everything felt so visually perfect, from the sidewalks to the subway system to even how the clubs looked. I think my favorite scene – one of my favorites from when I first viewed the film – was when we saw that Silvercup Studios logo. We only see it slightly, but any native New Yorker would instantly know that sign.

It was such a refreshing moment that made me sit back and miss home, but I also wondered at the talent of creating such a vivid animated sequence that resembled real life in so many ways.

Tina Fey as 22 in Pixar's Soul
Tina Fey as 22 in Pixar's Soul

The Voice-Acting Was Still Just As Great

Any time Pixar casts people in their movies, you know they will knock it out of the park. I think the Soul voice cast is one of the best they've had in a while.

The cast itself isn't filled to the brim with a ridiculous amount of stars; only a few have indeed paved their way in Hollywood, like Jamie Foxx, Tiny Fey, Daveed Diggs, and others. And with that cast, they can put so much emotion and feeling into their character that it makes them feel almost real rather than animated.

I think that's the point of Soul in the first place – for you to relate to what the characters are going through on screen, and through the voice acting, I felt that even more this time.

22 (as Joe) in Soul.
22 (as Joe) in Soul.

That Scene – The Simple Joys Of Life – Was Better On A Big Screen

One of my favorite scenes of Soul was watching 22 experiencing the simple joys of life in Joe's body. I smiled so brightly watching it the first time – but in the movie theater? It was a completely different experience, in a good way.

Not only was the animation so beautiful and well-done, from the little branches on the trees falling, to her seeing people across the street, to the feeling of air on her skin, but it was also like watching someone being reborn in a certain way.

That moment, for some reason, hit me harder because it felt like as time has gone on, we too have forgotten to enjoy the simple joys of life, and witnessing that scene again made me evaluate who I am as a person – and what I can do to enjoy my simple pleasures.

Daveed Diggs' character in Soul.
Daveed Diggs' character in Soul.

The Life Lessons Hit Harder Now

I didn't expect to see Soul in theaters. I'm sure my original mindset was a lot like many others – "it's already on Disney+ – what's the point of going to a movie theater to see it again?"

Again, this originally wasn't my idea, but I decided to go along with it because I did love this movie, and it had been so long since I saw it.

Even if you don't get to see it in a theater, rewatch this movie for the love of God.

Soul coming to theaters was the best excuse I ever had to watch this film again because I didn't realize how much I needed to view this film again now that I'm older. When Soul first came out, we were all in the pandemic, trying to make it through the day. I had graduated college a few months before, and life was pretty bleak for a reasonable amount of time. The movie gave me hope I didn't realize I had.

But now? So much time has passed, and I've realized this film's lessons and themes are much more complex than I'd thought. I've forgotten to enjoy the simple things of life, the smiles that we share with strangers, the scents we love to smell after a long day of work – everything always feels like it's melting into one day after the next, and we never take out time to just be. 

I think that's the main message I got from this movie after seeing it again in theaters – that we all need to learn to let go and enjoy the ride that life is taking us on because we ultimately have no choice in what happens. We can try to change direction and plan things out for our future selves, but things change all the time – and that was the lesson Joe learned, too.

He may have had a passion and drive and felt he was only meant to do this one thing, but he learned how to embrace who he was and what he was doing and still find joy in life despite it – and it paid off in the end. I needed to hear that now – something I won't forget for a long time.

While I don't think you can see Soul in theaters anymore, I'll gladly say you should rewatch the film, if not just for a good cry to get in your general feelings about life. I sometimes forget how great this movie is – and now, it's time for you to recall how excellent it is.