Inside Out Review
PIXAR RETURNS TO ITS CELEBRATED GLORY
Over the past decade, Pixar Animation Studios has produced some memorable hits with films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, and The Incredibles. Recently, however, with the exception of 2012’s Brave, Pixar have been recycling their pool of animated features with sequels. Films like Cars 2, Monsters University, and Toy Story 3 were met with commercial success, but had mixed reviews from fans and critics. The animation powerhouse doesn’t seem to be stopping with producing sequels with future projects for Toy Story 4, Finding Dory, and The Incredibles 2. The year of 2015, however, is a different story with two non-sequel movies by Pixar, with the first animated film titled Inside Out. Does the film deliver on being memorable or is it just a bland emotional cartoon rollercoaster?
Inside a 12 year old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is a team of emotions that cohesively work together to get the young girl through her daily life. The emotion Joy (Amy Poehler) manages control of their headquarters, keeping track of the glowing orbs that represent Riley’s memories. Joy also has to manage Riley’s other emotions, including Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling), who constantly want to take control of Riley’s brain. After a recent move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley is emotional wrecked from her uprooted life as her parents, voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachian, doing their best to help their daughter adjust to her new surroundings. To make matter worse, when an accident sends emotions Joy and Sadness to the maze-like labyrinthine of Riley’s “Long Term Memory”, it leaves Fear, Disgust, and Anger in charge and in control of Riley. Venturing through the different realms of Riley’s mind, Joy is determined to make it back to headquarters and return everything to status quo in the young adolescent’s consciousness.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
After releasing Monsters University back in the summer of 2013, Pixar sort of went covertly dark. The powerhouse animation studio did not release a movie throughout the entire year of 2014, possibly focusing attention on various projects for its parenting company (Disney) or reexamining future prospects after a steady string on sequel movies. Some even began to think that the once proud studio had lost its edge, producing feature films that, while still commercial good, were considered subpar from the company’s lofty beginnings. Whatever the case, Pixar is back and is in rare form with Inside Out, a movie that’s equal parts emotional complex, touchingly moving, and uproariously hilarious.
Pete Docter, the director behind Pixar’s celebrated movies of both Monsters Inc. and Up, helms Inside Out masterfully, allowing its essential premise to flourish and create a layered animated film. Given the objective of the story’s narrative and also being classified as a kid’s movie, Docter and his team had a difficult task on how Inside Out would be presented. Too childish, and the movie could’ve felt it was harkening back to the Disney’s old Epcot attraction “Cranium Commander” (my initial thoughts when I first saw the teaser trailer for Inside Out). Too serious, and the younger audience viewers would simply get lost and lose interest the feature all together. Thankfully, Docter’s layout for Inside Out falls somewhere in-between, with a give and take notion of both child and adult thematic elements weaved into this animated tale.
The movie doesn’t feel like it was haphazardly put together or drenched with unnecessary pop culture references. Inside Out feels truly genuine and crafted beautifully with a lot of love and care, pointing out numerous animated frivolities and relatable (and poignant) moments throughout its duration. This is a very imaginative film as the writers and storyboard people behind Inside Out should be highly commended for their creative effort. The idea of five emotions controlling an individual, the orb-like memories, and the colorful and diverse realms of Riley’s subconscious are all exquisite to explore and behold. Again, big kudos the creative team behind these. The movie also looks incredibly beautiful. Visually speaking, Pixar films are usually presented with top-notch CG animation and Inside Out is no different. Colors are extremely vibrant, details are meticulously precise, and even subtle facial expressions are executed masterfully. Additionally, the movie is very funny with tons of humorous jokes that make surely make both kids and adults laugh.
Inside Out also carries that Pixar signature touch to its feature presentation. While the film is stuffed with comedic lines and gags and overall zaniness cartoon fun, the movie juxtaposes those fundamentals with emotional and heartfelt drama. Blending animated fantasies with sophisticated real world challenges has been a hallmark tradition of the Pixar as Pete Docter spends valuable time in the movie by establishing the Riley’s new life in San Francisco and addresses certain issues that come with a young adolescent moving to a new area. The movie examines each emotion, through Riley’s actions, and kindly opens discussion for younger viewers on how to express their emotional feelings properly. Further examination also hints at that ambiguous age of Riley’s character where the pre-adolescent mind is torn between childhood and maturity (another perfect opportunity for parents to have open dialogue with pre-teen child). There are some truly standout moments of powerful and moving scenes that convey a lot of emotions on-screen. It’s all very touching and may even put a couple of viewers on the verge on tearing up a little (I personally almost did).
The two primary characters in Inside Out are the emotions Joy and Sadness, voiced by Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith. Even though she harbors a singular feeling, Docter creates Joy with a collective sense of Riley’s other emotions, layering her with personalities found in her co-workers emotions. By doing this, the character of Joy (like Riley) grows throughout the film with new emotional understanding, contributing to the film’s thematic message of maturation. As for her voice work, the energetic and bubbly sounding vocals of Amy Poehler fit Joy perfectly. As they say, you can’t have joy without sadness and actress Phyllis Smith does a terrific job as the melancholy emotion. Like Joy, Sadness plays a large part in Inside Out, impacting some of the film’s most funniest and emotional scenes.
Riley’s other three emotions aren’t as impactful as Joy or Sadness, but the actors who lend their voices to them are still really good, perfectly mimicking their emotional animated persona. Billy Hader is great as the twitching and nervous Fear as well as Mind Kaling’s sassy and opinionated Disgust, but its Lewis Black’s Anger who generates the most laughs with his constant hot temper remarks and attitude. Additionally, Richard Kind does fine job as Bing Bong, Riley’s long lost imaginary friend. The human characters in Inside Out are fitted out in supporting roles with Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachian dutiful lending their voices for Riley’s mom and dad as Kaitlyn Dias voices Riley and, while she doesn’t have biggest role, she gets the job done admirably, especially during the ending emotional finale.
Lastly, the short titled Lava, which is shown before Inside Out, is worth mentioning. Like the full animated movie it’s attached to, Lava is presented beautifully with pleasantly and sweet tale (sung in a Hawaiian-esque musical performance) of a lonely volcano looking for a counterpart volcanic companion. I’ve always liked these Pixar shorts and it’s nice to know that the animation studio hasn’t lost their touch in crafting these.
After years of churning out animated sequels and building up movie franchises, Pixar’s Inside Out is a remarkable and refreshing breathier that seems to return the animation studio to its much-respected glory. Pete Docter’s latest film delivers at being both colorful and hilariously entertaining, while also being touchingly moving and sophisticated with its narrative. Personally, it was a fantastic animated feature, one that hits all the right marks and further proves that Pixar Studios, despite some naysayers, can still produce some of Hollywood’s memorable animated movies. If you have kids or just simply a kid at heart, then Inside Out is highly recommended for viewing. In an industry that’s crammed with animation studios that are constantly jostling for a viewer’s attention, it’s a nice reminder that Pixar is still the reigning champion of imaginative storytelling in CG animation.