Inside Out (2015) Movie Review

“Inside Out” is Pixar’s Crown Jewel of Emotion: 5/5

Ever since the dawn of cinema, character has been an important part of film. Good films explore the goals of characters. Great films explore the motivations of characters. Fantastic films explore the raw emotion of characters and how emotions affect them and their surroundings. But few movies explore these ideas with such humor, visual impact, and heart-wrenching sadness than Pixar’s latest masterpiece, “Inside Out”.

This already seems on par with Pixar, the creators of works such as “Toy Story”, “Finding Nemo”, and “Monsters Inc.”, all great films and modern classics in the animation category. But the great thing with Pixar is that each of their films is different, each fitting into different genres, which showcase their wide range of talents. These films range from fantasy (Brave), sci-fi (WALL-E), and adventure (Up).

But one of the many great qualities about “Inside Out” is that it doesn’t have a genre. It is its own film, its own story, able to be successful and enjoyable without having a nice little box to put it in. These original concepts are what Hollywood lacks today.

But I digress. There is beauty in the film itself, where laugh-out-loud humor, stunning animation, and unique story is used to enhance the film’s overall charm. The film stars Joy (Amy Poehler), one of five sentient emotions controlling a little girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). The other emotions are Fear (Bill Hader), a purple, paranoid, nerve-shaped jitterbug, Disgust (Mindy Kaling), a sassy, green emotion that resembles a stalk of broccoli (Joy says her job is to keep Riley from being poisoned, physically and socially), Anger (Lewis Black in one of the best animated casting choices in a long time), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith), an Eeyore-like Debbie Downer with good intentions, but Joy doesn’t think Sadness is important to the team.

Riley has grown into a loving, honest, and friendly eleven year old girl whose passions such as hockey are controlled by the five emotions. She lives with her mom (Diane Lane) and dad (Kyle MacLachlan) in Minnesota. She is perfectly happy, thanks to Joy and her control over the more negative emotions presiding within Riley, especially Sadness. Riley has a nice house, a great hockey team, and good friends. But when she is forced to move to San Francisco, things start getting out of control. Everything is going wrong, from the missing moving van to the dumpy house. This eventually culminates in a moment where Sadness makes Riley cry in front of her classmates on the first day of school. In an unfortunate chain of events, the core memories which power her Personality Islands (large structures that create a different aspect of Riley’s personality, such as Friendship and Family) get knocked out of place, making Riley not herself. Joy and Sadness, with the core memories, get sucked out of Headquarters, forcing them to go on an epic adventure to return to Headquarters.

What happens from then on can only be described as movie magic. Creative characters and moments come on fast and furious. One such example is Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s old imaginary friend who has been forgotten as Riley has grown up, and whose enduring love for his former friend is one of many things that will most definitely get you to tear up. Some other great ideas include Dream Productions, a movie studio that crafts Riley’s nightly joys and terrors (the posters on the wall serve as a clever sight gag), the Train of Thought, a literal train that sends thought and opinions to Headquarters, and so much more that just cannot be listed here.

Everything works so well together. The direction of Pete Docter, the mind behind the 2009 modern classic “Up”, shows his directing knack once again. The stunning visuals give you a believable interpretation of this world, while the snappy and funny dialogue (especially from Kaling, Black, and Hader) makes you double over in laughter. The action is incredibly coordinated, while the Michael Giacchino score both draws us in and calms us down, “Inside Out” becomes one of the most absorbing films in a long time.

I could list sight gags and clever ideas all day, but that is not the true genius of “Inside Out”. It seems right that the point of this film is the emotion. The movie quickly transitions between side-splitting humor and heart-breaking sadness. And why is the emotion so intense, so affecting, and so important to “Inside Out”? Because we can relate to it. We’ve all felt happy, sad, angry, disgusted, and afraid. We’ve loved and lost friends. We’ve all been through seemingly hopeless situations. “Inside Out” understands this. I’m sure Pete Doctor and the crew at Pixar have consulted with real psychologists for this project, since “Inside Out” understands not only emotions, but the human condition itself. It knows what people have been through, and Inside Out explains it with such ease, originality, and confidence.

When presented with the premise of the film, you may be tricked into thinking the film will be small scale, with not very large stakes. It’s true, the stakes are not exactly high compared to our recent blockbusters, where entire cities are being attacked by a supernatural threat,and in “Inside Out” it’s the life of just one girl in the balance. But to Joy, it’s her entire world. And it’s ours too.

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