Movie Review: Inside Out
Director: Pete Docter & Renaldo Del Carmen
Reviewed: 19 July 2015
Basking in its own golden age of cinema right now, the geniuses at Pixar have crafted another tear jerking, hilarious, and completely inventive story that resonates, I imagine, with children and parents alike, proving that there's nothing they cannot do and, more importantly, nothing they cannot do right. This film is one of the best of the year, deserving of its box office and accolades, and I expect to hear its name called out again come Oscar-time. It's just that good.
Inside Out is ostensibly the story of a little girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) who moves with her family from Minnesota to the unfamiliar territory of San Francisco with her parents; however, in the coolest twist, we mostly see Riley from the inside, through a type of Herman's Head collection of emotions that govern her feelings and actions as she navigates the world. Riley is led by Joy (Amy Poehler), a spritely Tinkerbell-ish character with the ability to call back core memories from Riley's life while keeping her, well, joyful, and the other emotions in check. She's a benevolent general, so to speak, brimming with optimism and relentlessness. Riley also contains Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) who work together not competitively but more in symphony with each other. Each emotion fuels a different response in Riley, naturally, which can upset the delicate balance that Joy tries to maintain within her. When the move away from home and friends jolts Riley in a way that rocks her core memories, causing some of them to change, Joy and Sadness find themselves trapped inside Riley's long term memory, staring out at the control tower, desperately seeking a way back. The journey through the mechanics and machinations of this world with its marbles of memories, infinite abyss of discarded ones, and its trains of thought comprise the film's plot, complete with surprises best kept under wraps, though I will say that Richard Kind's work here is incredibly moving. Inside Out resembles being inside a bubble gum machine with its spinning, spiraling memory balls and its towers of colors. I felt transported in the best possible way.
The world-building of the Pixar film makers, led by Doctor and Del Carmen here, is so complete and thorough, that though complex, it is always navigable and comprehensible. In short, you can always tell where everyone is and what the stakes are. Everyone is at the top of their game with the voice performances, crafting fully realized characters though I had to wait until the credits to figure out who everyone was. Inside Out has an appeal to the parents in the crowd despite being sold as a children's movie, and its message of carrying both Sadness and Joy within you and being fueled by other emotions besides Joy is a powerful one, not one that dumbs down the complexity of life for any of its audience. The film explores why we remember certain things the way that we do, examining our memories as not always being truthful or the complete picture. Amidst the laughter is a powerful core of loss as one grows up: loss of memories, changing of memories with emotions, and partial loss of identity. In essence, growing up. It allows us brief and hilarious windows into the minds of other characters too, expanding its own implications. This is heavy stuff for any movie to tackle, and tackle it does with Pixar's signature grace. But the film is so funny, over and over again while reaching for your heart. And, for me, the Chinatown reference is pure joy, as are many of the surprises that await the audience.
It is becoming expected to be emotionally moved by Pixar (think the silent film sequence in Up or WALL*E, alone with his work and music), but I think they've reached an even more advanced level here. From the bottom of Nemo's ocean to the far reaches of outer space, Pixar may have traveled farther on the surface, but these marvelous filmmakers know that the greatest journey for all of us is within. I imagine a conversation of the summer must involve audience members debating amongst themselves which emotion(s) rule them and what commercial jingle from childhood cannot leave our brain, and we have Pixar to thank for another family film that tugs at the heart while being fun, never condescending or simplistic or crude.
They do movies right. Talk about Joy!