Australian Council on Children and the Media

Soul

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Short takes

Not suitable under 8; parental guidance to 10 (adult themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Soul
  • a review of Soul completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 29 December 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not suitable due to complex story and adult themes.
Children aged 8–10 Parental guidance recommended due to complex story and adult themes (death, afterlife, souls, meaning of life etc.).
Children over the age of 10 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Soul
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: None available
Length 106 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Joe Gardener (Voice of Jamie Foxx) is a high school band teacher with fading dreams of becoming a jazz musician. On the same day that he lands a top gig with a famous jazz musician, Joe’s fortunes twist and he tumbles down an open manhole, plunging him into an alternate reality where his soul is climbing on an escalator towards a bright white light; he is dying. In desperation, Joe tries to run back to his body and somehow ends up in a psychedelic and ethereal land called, “The Great Beyond”, which is where new, unborn souls are being prepared for their birth on Earth. Joe has somehow arrived there by accident and is mistakenly assigned as a mentor to one of the unborn souls, soul number 22 (voice of Tina Fey). Joe’s job is to help this little soul find her ‘spark’ so that she can begin her journey towards life on Earth. The catch is that soul number 22 doesn’t want to live and has no desire to find her spark – many mentors have tried to help her and failed. Joe admits to 22 that all he wants to do is find a way back into his body and continue living. This intrigues number 22 as his life seems so sad and ordinary to her, she can’t see why he is so attached to life. She agrees to help him get back to Earth. They begin a topsy turvy adventure between realities which involves a bit of body swapping with a cat, some misadventures on Earth and ultimately, some realisations about what our true purpose in life is.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Music; Jazz; Death; Afterlife; Spiritualism; Purpose of life; Philosophy.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some mild slapstick violence in this movie, including:

  • Joe falls down an open manhole.
  • Precarious moments running across streets with busy traffic.
  • A cat scratches Joe in the face.
  • A cat slaps Joe across the face.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • When Joe falls down a manhole, he wakes up in an ethereal realm full of souls and it appears as though he has died and is on his way to the afterlife. This is not presented in a scary or graphic manner but may require explanation for small children.
  • Joe is seen lying in a hospital bed in a coma.
  • In the ‘Great Beyond’, which is a spiritual realm where unborn souls wait to arrive on earth, there are some scenes involving ‘lost souls’ – these are quite visually disturbing; they are large, dark, hulking creatures that lurch around a dark landscape with one glowing eye.
  • Several scenes where young souls fling themselves downwards, hurtling towards the earth.
  • There is an ‘accountant’ called Terry (who is a linear, glowing animated figure who can shift and change shape), who has a somewhat menacing character. In one scene he mistakes someone for Joe and gives the person a near death experience by accident. The poor man is absolutely terrified.
  • One of the main characters, a little ‘soul’ called number 22, transforms into a lost soul. She is seen wandering an empty landscape and has turned black with glowing green eyes. When Joe catches up with her, she turns into a snarling large monster who looks quite menacing. She is a trapped and terrified beast. Joe tries to get close to her and she grows even bigger and then leans down and swallows him. Joe finds himself trapped inside her where he hears all her negative inner thoughts. It is a very dark, dramatic and emotional scene.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Children in this age group may still find some of the above-mentioned scenes disturbing or scary.
  • In addition, children in this age group will have more awareness and sensitivity to the complex and serious themes of life, death, afterlife and searching for purpose and meaning in our own lives.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Children in this age group may still find some of the above-mentioned scenes disturbing or scary.
  • In addition, children in this age group will have more awareness and sensitivity to the complex and serious themes of life, death, afterlife and searching for purpose and meaning in our own lives.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some romantic references in this movie, including:

  • There is some mention of Joe’s previous love interest, a woman called Lisa.
  • Joe accidentally kisses an older woman on the lips, which she thinks is fabulous.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Pain in the Butt
  • Brat.

In a nutshell

Soul is a warm-hearted and compelling film with delightful visual animation. It is very enjoyable to watch, but lacks a coherent and cohesive storyline, which may leave both adults and children wondering what the film is actually about. Apart from a couple of dramatic and emotional scenes, there is not much in this film that small children would be scared by, however parents should be aware that this film explores quite mature concepts that may confuse some children and require an explanation. It is therefore not suitable for children under 8 and parental guidance is recommended to 10.

The main messages from this movie are that it is important not to take our life for granted, to appreciate the simple pleasures of life and not be caught in the trap of ambition.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Slowing down to appreciate beauty and importance in simple things.
  • Living in the moment.
  • Finding meaning and purpose in life.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • In this film, there are some ‘lost souls’ who have lost sight of the true meaning in life. What happens in real life when some people get ‘lost’?
  • When soul number 22 becomes a lost soul, Joe hears all the negative thoughts she has inside her. Parents may like to discuss the concept of negative self-talk with their children, and ways that we can counter those thoughts when they happen in our own lives (feelings of worthlessness, depression etc.).

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