Jared’s review published on Letterboxd:
This one honestly floats around 3-4 stars. While the rest of the review doesn't contain any direct story spoilers necessarily, I talk about it as an entire piece which includes how it ends? I will later get on to a full ending discussion so look out for those spoilers too but I warn you again. Also somewhat spoilers to the show The Good Place, or at least the show's overall thesis? So read on if you want I guess... I can't tell you what to do.
I think there are a lot of strong and unique aspects of the film such as the art direction, animation, the score and even the performances. Where the film honestly falters and kind of putters out for me is in the writing. I feel like there were a lot of conviences that the main characters ran into. I could feel the seedlings of ideas that just didn't get enough attention to fully grow or that were cut for some reason. Part of that was probably on me a bit because I went in expecting more of The Good Place and less It's a wonderful life in terms of I thought that it would be more of a meditation and acceptance of death. Also just some big plot holes too which kind of irked me. Not to say that the writing was all bad, I laughed a good handful of times! It just felt like this could have been a tighter script if given some more time? Like even though it has a decent runtime at 1 hour and 47 minutes, it felt like it could have taken it's time more but I'm sure that also having it be any longer might skof the pace down too much. It's an interesting dilemma with this one. Okay now I'm going to directly talk about the ending so look out.
Spoiler for the ending past here~
My biggest gripe with the intentions of this film come down to the ending, where Joe is given a second chance to live which just felt very convenient and sort of a cop out. But I realize at the same time that this is a kid's movie so that's sort of a hard trick to pull off when most kids don't think about the fact that they will die some day. I just felt like that in the film as a whole it sort of had mixed messaging about it all. It just felt like at first that the film's main characters arcs should have been that Joe learned to accept passing on instead of fearing it and that 22 learned to really appreciate living. They sort of have reverse arcs in a way(?) But then I feel like it sort of just stops Joe's arc and then Joe and 22 share their arc together. I feel like this would have been way braver to have Joe actually pass on in the end and peacefully accept it. Would have been like a exestential philosophy equivalent to what Inside Out does for kids and understanding feelings. I know child psychologists have said how much Inside Out has helped some children in working out emotions and I just felt like Soul had the potential to maybe do something similar? But I again recognize that is a crazy ask of kids and parents. And maybe that was the original ending but then they changed for one reason or another. Idk it's why this film floats at 3-4 for me because I feel like I need to rewatch it to fully understand what they have currently in wiriting and not going in expecting the finale to The Good Place.