"Inside Out" Review
Many would argue that Pixar has fallen off since Toy Story 3, continuing on in the ensuing years with sub-standard animated features like Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University. After an empty 2014 slate, consider their latest film, Inside Out, a breath of fresh air. I'm happy to see the Pixar brain trust come storming back with a complex, character-rich, visually-stunning ORIGINAL story that can proudly stand among the studio's very best.
Inside Out takes place almost entirely inside the mind of 11-year old Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias). We get to know her through her feelings of Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) following a family move from Minnesota to San Fransisco. Along with a new city comes a new house and a new school. As a pre-pubescent girl encountering these situations for the first time, surely there are other emotions worthy of inclusion in this kind of story, like contempt, affection, confidence, curiosity, and embarrassment. As much as this film doesn't need a sequel, I could see those other emotions coming into play in a future story where we catch up with Riley as a full-fledged teenager. As it stands, Inside Out finds a believable balance between the five emotions that the storytellers have elected to include.
The plot thickens when Joy and Sadness are forced out of "head"quarters in order to save Riley's fondest memories from being forgotten, leaving her character to be dictated by Fear, Disgust and Anger. On the way back to "head"quarters, Joy and Sadness run into several unique characters, my favorite among them a huggable imaginary friend that Riley once had named Bing Bong (voiced by Richard Kind). There's a great scene where Bing Bong leads Joy and Sadness through the realm of "abstract thought." Pay attention to the dialogue here for what I found to be a genius meta-commentary on emotions as well as animation itself.
As the best Pixar movies do, Inside Out delivers something for both kids and adults. This film will delight everyone with its colorful characters, vibrant animation and sense of adventure. Some older kids and parents will likely appreciate more of the humor than younger children because the film is all about growing pains. Not everyone can relate to a happy childhood playing hockey with both parents cheering you on from the sidelines, but everyone has certainly experienced joy, fear, anger, sadness and disgust in some form or another. Inside Out prompts us to reflect on our own memories and experiences and how they have shaped our individual character. In that sense, the film is fodder for enlightening post-screening discussion. It should go without saying that it stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
It's truly amazing what director Pete Docter and the rest of Pixar's contributing minds have achieved with what is probably the most complex character deconstruction across film or television in recent memory. Keep in mind that this is an animated movie aimed at children.
Critics sometimes talk about how great acting performances can put you inside the mind or the "shoes" of a character. Now, we literally get to see what's going on inside the lead character's head in a way that I don't think any other movie has allowed us to do before. We understand precisely what makes Riley tick. Every action performed by the emotions inside her mind prompts a very believable reaction in her outward character. I think Inside Out will justly pose some very interesting thinking points for child psychologists.
The more I think about Inside Out, the more I enJOY it. Perhaps that's apropos. Don't miss one of Pixar's best, most emotionally powerful films in a return to classic form for the studio.
Written by Ben C. of The Reel