Forget the toys, the fish, the bears, the cars, and the robots … this time out Pixar gets personal and goes emo – literally [*POW!*] with Inside Out. An adventure of an 11 year old and her emotions during a “difficult” family relocation to San Francisco.
The story is split between the real world and the world inside Riley Anderson’s consciousness, populated by her core emotions. The emotions are personified by characters with personalities driven by the trait they represent. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust are little beings living inside Riley’s brain. The meat of the story happens inside Riley’s head. When her life begins to sour in the real world, her emotions try to compensate, mucking up the works. The aftermath kicks off an adventure within Riley’s memory bank to set things right. Several psychological concepts are explored and it’s an interesting, if not unique premise.
The tone of the movie is a product of its time. While children of generations past digested the dangers in Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the facts-of-life lessons in Bambi, Inside Out is more prosaic in its situations, dealing mostly in first world problems. Having to eat San Fran-hipster broccoli pizza hardly strikes the same emotional cord as almost being eaten by a stranger. Even for a Pixar movie, it feels like it pulls some punches. The film neither reaches the great emotional heights of Up, nor sinks into the swirling vortex of despair in Toy Story 3. It plays out a bit like a kiddie version of What Dreams May Come.
Casting is inspired with standout performances from Amy Poehler channeling her Mighty B as Joy and Lewis Black in the role he was born to play … Anger. (On a side note, with Patton Oswald and Lewis Black voicing Pixar characters, it’s only a matter of time until Mark Maron hops behind the mic.) Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Bill Hader (Fear), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Richard Kind (Bing Bong), and Kaitlyn Dias (Riley Anderson) all do terrific jobs voicing their characters. Standup legend Paula Poundstone returns to voiceover work for the first time since the squiggle vision classic Home Movies.
Inside Out is a visually striking movie. The character design is wonderful, the colors are vivid, and the animation is top-notch. It’s full of interesting characters, funny situations, action, drama, heart, and charm. While the sum of the parts may not be the apex of the studio, Inside Out lives up to its pedigree. It’s a Pixar movie inside and out [*BOOM!*] and that’s pretty darn good.
Pros: Outstanding character design. Top-notch animation. Interesting concepts.
Cons: Follow the yellow brick road … to the toy isle
My Take: 4 out of 5 core memories
In grand Pixar tradition there was a short before the feature. “Lava” was a cute little animation with a catchy tune. :)