We’ve come to expect a certain standard of excellence from Pixar. While recent efforts haven’t always lived up to those lofty expectations, Inside Out emerges as one of the studio’s best.
I can’t see another film this year topping its combination of heart, emotion and complexity. You’ll love it the first time, but Inside Out will prove even more enjoyable upon repeated viewings.
Inside the head of young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) are five emotions — Joy (Amy Poheler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) — that control how she responds to life’s events.
The actors are so perfectly cast and embody their characters’ moods so smoothly it seems like the third or fourth time we’ve seen them in the roles.
Riley lives in a very loving home with her father (Kyle McLachlan) and mother (Diane Lane, Man of Steel) and all is well with Riley.
Joy is the Alpha personality in Riley’s head and domineering over the others, but her cheerfully overbearing attitude is strictly focused on keeping Riley happy so it’s hard to knock Joy. Besides, we could all use a bit more in our life, right?
The emotions are animated with an almost felt- and Muppet-like texture. It helps further set them apart from the more traditional animated humans indicative of all the small touches that make the film special. My favorite bits were Anger constantly reading newspaper headlines of still occurring events with Riley.
Joy’s perfectly run ship gets thrown for a loop when the family relocates to San Francisco and Riley has to adjust to a new life. For Joy, that means doubling up on the happiness and being even more protective of Riley’s positive memories.
The shy and frequently disconsolate Sadness keeps ‘screwing up’ Joy’s plans and they both end up removed from mission control. Now the opposing emotions have to journey through personality islands and Riley’s core memories before the remaining emotions erroneously lead her down the wrong path.
Along the way, Directors Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc.) and Ronaldo Del Carmen create some incredibly imaginative sequences for the unlikely duo. Joy and Sadness reconnect with Riley’s imaginary friend — and the film’s scene stealer — Bing Bong (Richard Kind), encounter giant clowns and magical unicorns. To share much more would be spoiling the fun. Expecting the unexpected truly helps the experience.
The screenplay by Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley and Docter is Pixar’s most thought-provoking, multi-layered and emotional yet. At the start, it plays out like a simple Pixar outing. Two mismatched characters forced to work through their differences.
Inside Out is so much deeper as it explores themes of childhood, our emotional connection to memories and the assurance that it’s OK to be honest with what you’re feeling. That goes double for the audience. It’s perfectly fine to get choked up, tearful or straight up bawling through the film.
Inside Out re-establishes Pixar as the preeminent force when it comes to animation properties. While I’m always up for more original efforts, Docter and Del Carmen have created a mesmerizing universe that’s begging for further exploration as we tap into more emotions.
No sequel for Inside Out? Now that would really be something to cry about.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo credit: Disney-Pixar