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Inside Out - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Inside Out
Directing: A
Acting: B+
Writing: A+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: A
Animation: A-

On the surface, the concept for Pixar's latest animated feature, Inside Out, seems almost typically blah, fitting right in with their 2010s output: the primary characters are all representations of the core emotions inside the head of a preteen girl. The trailer makes it look a little more cutesy than anything with any real depth -- not that little kids that are ostensibly the target audience need depth. But these layers were long the hallmark of Pixar's output, until we were given lower-standard fare like the uneven Cars 2 (2011) or the humdrum Monsters University (2013).

No more of that! Inside Out is easily the best Pixar feature since Toy Story 3, the best movie of 2010. Not even Brave</i>, otherwise the best Pixar feature of the past four years, quite met its potential (a potential that, frankly, Disney Animation Studios' Frozen surpassed by a wide margin in the eyes of the public, although it's not a particularly better film). But Inside Out is all it promises to be and more.

We're finally back to ingenious dialogue and plotting that reaches both adults on their level, and children on their level -- something these other more recent Pixare films mysteriously discarded. We can get regular old silly fun anywhere. Here we have emotional complexity, complex symbolism, and the wistfulness that comes with the earliest lessons of growing up -- the very kinds of things that made the Toy Story films so great. Except this time, it all revolves around a totally relatable little girl instead of a little boy.

Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), until now a wonderfully happy little girl living in Minnesota, has been moved by her parents to bustling San Francisco. Now eleven years old, she's finding herself controlled by her core emotions in new ways -- including Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (a charmingly sarcastic Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black, in perhaps his most obviously perfect casting to date). They all work a console in "Headquarters," but they lose control. Joy and Sadness get lost in the endless walls of Long Term Memory when, though this is never explicitly stated, Riley experiences her first bit of depression. Fear, Disgust and Anger try to make do without them, with calamitous results. Joy and Sadness must find their way back. They all have to learn to work together in new and unfamiliar circumstances. Along the way they meet the delightful hybrid of several animals, Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong, who is literally fading from memory just by virtue of Riley's growth. It's sad to watch him disappear, and I'm happy to remember him for her.

In lesser hands, this story could have devolved into oversimplified hokum. But Inside Out was co-directed and co-written by Pete Docter, who has an impressive history with Pixar, including directing Up (2009) and Monsters, Inc (2001), and co-writing several others, including multiple Toy Story films. This guy has been involved in some of the very best in Pixar's history, and here he not only doesn't disappoint, he and co-writer/director Ronaldo Del Carmen (here working on his first Pixar film) vastly exceed expectations.

Granted, unlike several previous Pixar films, Inside Out does not wow with its animation, at least not unless you conscientiously look closely. With the exception of a very clever sequence in which they are transformed by abstract thought, the emotion characters are not rendered with hard lines: they are sort of fuzzy on the edges, almost pixelated, except with impressive intricacy -- like looking closely at the particles that make up planetary rings, humming and vibrating, or perhaps floating like dust kept close by your own body's gravity. Each of then is a different color, with mildly sparkly blue or green hair. Anger looks remarkably like a block of red foam rubber.

It's the story and characters, far more than anything, that sets this one apart. This movie packs a surprising emotional punch. Much of it is incredibly funny, with rapid-fire gags about thought itself that sneak up on you. It will also make you cry. Here is a story about how joy and sadness need each other to work effectively, and it's done with stunning effectiveness. This is the reason it makes sense the film is rated PG for "mild thematic elements." I didn't experience them as mild, particularly. It was closer to profound, and it's a true joy to have Pixar finally offering us something that is absolutely not to be missed.


Overall: A
2 comments or Leave a comment
Heather McCrillis From: Heather McCrillis Date: June 19th, 2015 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
And yet, I'm afraid of pharmaceutical marketing potential. :/

We do have named cities in MN, Pixar. :p
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: June 19th, 2015 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is the most amazing idea of a movie I have ever seen!
2 comments or Leave a comment