Inside Out

Genre: Animation

Directors: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen

Screenplay: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley

Voice Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle McLachlan

Running Length: 94 minutes

Synopsis: Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

Review: It had almost seemed like Pixar’s stellar run was at its end – Toy Story 3 was the last truly great Pixar film and that was way back in 2010. The following few films – Cars 2, Brave and Monster’s University – were good at best, mediocre at worst. I am glad to say that after a one year gap, Pixar has finally returned to form with Inside Out, which ranks amongst the very best films the studio has released since its inception. Inside Out is one of those rare films that will undoubtedly please the little ones, but bears much more poignancy and deeper meaning for the grown-ups. What’s also remarkable is how inventive this film is, with such a clean and easy-to-grasp take on neuropsychology that it really needs to be seen to be believed.

The premise of Inside Out is nearly impossible to articulate – essentially it asks the question “what if your feelings had feelings”? Yet, Pixar has managed to flesh out a fully-functioning universe based around the concept that everything we think and feel is governed by five emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, and that our experiences form spheres that are being looked after by these emotions and a supporting crew. The really important experiences become core memory spheres, powering the “islands” that shape a person’s personality. It’s amazingly inventive – the Pixar team has managed to think of everything, from how a person loses some memories, to how dreams come about, and even why certain songs and jingles become annoying earworms that pop up at the most inopportune moments. While it may not look like it at first glance, Inside Out is certainly one of the smartest films I’ve seen in a very long time.

This actually poses a small problem for Inside Out – the cleverest, most poignant moments in the film will also be the ones that will connect least with the younger audiences. I cannot envision any child being able to appreciate why Joy, Sadness and Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong are reduced to Dadaist shapes when they enter Abstract Thought. Even more so, while Bing Bong has a zany but cute character design – he even cries tears of candy, adults should come prepared with tissues as his story plays out. The film remains generally a bright and colourful one, and there’s enough fun moments in it to please the kids, but suffice to say older viewers will be the one to really experience fully what Inside Out has to offer.

That the film looks amazing is almost a given, but it does come across as rather surprising that almost no effort has been made to make Inside Out pop a bit more in the third dimension – this will be a film best seen without the encumbrance of 3D glasses. But really, this is all nitpicking – Inside Out is not only one of the best animated films I’ve seen in recent years, I believe it has a legitimate chance of a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars next year, and automatically gets a slot in my best-of list for 2015. It may sound a little hyperbolic, but Inside Out is a masterpiece that should not be missed, and one that will stand the test of time, still enjoyable and meaningful years down the road.

Rating: * * * * (out of four stars)

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