When I was younger, I often imagined my body being similar to the one in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask. I haven’t seen it, but I know its gist, a body acting as a country, factory, company, spaceship whatever. I think most children imagine their bodies operating like this at some point in their lives. The geniuses at Pixar definitely did, as it serves as the premise for their most recent film, Inside Out.
Pixar has been in a bit of a rut lately. They have started turning to making sequels of their originals instead of making new films. I remember last year many media outlets proclaiming its death as its parent company Disney was making more successful films such as Big Hero 6. Well, Pixar came back fast and furious with Inside Out, determined to atone for its sins that were Cars and Cars 2.
Inside Out is about a pre-teen/teen called Riley. Riley has a happy life in her home somewhere in Minnesota. That is, it is happy until she moves with her parents to San Francisco. We get an insight into Riley’s consciousness as we see her mind is actually a large control room similar to the Starship Enterprise, operated by five emotions. These being Joy (Amy Poehler) Sadness (Phyllis Smith) Fear (Bill Hader) Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). They each represent their titular emotions in their personalities, and try to make Riley react in the same way they do. Joy acts as the leader of the group, controlling everyone else.
When Riley reacts negatively to her new school, Joy and Sadness are thrown out of the control room deep into Riley’s mind, and have to make their way back to help out Riley from making potentially terrible life decisions. This exploration of the deepest recesses of the human psyche is where Inside Out is at its most funny and depressing.
To ignore the writing of Inside Out is the movie equivalent of committing the Holocaust. (That’s hyperbole, obviously. Please don’t take me seriously). The film portrays how the mind works on the, well, inside. It explains how you get that annoying jingle stuck in your head, how you forget things over time and even how you fantasize (The scenes with Riley’s imaginary boyfriend are hilarious) In this respect, Inside Out was far more intelligent than I was expecting. It explores complicated emotions such as angst, and how pre-teens don’t quite understand it yet.
The choice of voice actors can only be described as superb. Amy Poehler displayed in her TV show Parks and Recreation that she can perfectly play a constantly overjoyed and ecstatic character. Phyllis Smith also exceptionally pulled off playing a hilariously depressed emotion (again, hyperbole). In fact, all the actors settled into their roles excellently. I’m going to largely skip talking about acting because I think you get the gist. They’re perfect.
What must be talked about though is Inside Out’s genre. It is, first and foremost, a movie for children. It has, like most Pixar films, some jokes that only adults would get, but it is still a kid’s movie. I personally found the themes of Inside Out very heavy, perhaps too much so for children. In fact, my seven year old cousin saw it before me. His opinion? He didn’t like it. He did not elaborate, but he didn’t enjoy it as thoroughly as I did. And I can understand that. This movie deals with very mature themes, such as the loss of innocence. The work it reminds me the most of is actually JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
Catcher in the Rye is very much a depressing book. It is about a boy, Holden, who wants to remain a child when he is forced to grow up. While Inside Out is not nearly as sad as Catcher in the Rye, it does deal with many similar themes. Inside Out is not just a fun movie for the whole family, it’s also a sobering look at the beginning of adolescence and the growing complexities of emotions that come with it.
Although Inside Out does buy you a one-way ticket to Feel-adelphia, it balances this out with its stomach-bursting humor. It is sad, certainly, but it is also incredibly funny and light-hearted at points. If one were to remove the melancholic scenes which make me eyeball the kitchen knife and my wrist, Inside Out would have the highest density of good jokes in any comedy this year. It’s humor is mostly based off of annoyances with our brains, like when we think of some random memory for no reason whatsoever. It is relatable, clever and quick i.e. all the things Adam Sandler isn’t.
Inside Out is not only Pixar’s return to form, but its light at the end of the tunnel. If, for whatever reason, Pixar were to only make mediocre movies for the rest of its existence, we wouldn’t view it as a bad studio that makes terrible films, but as the company that brought us Inside Out. Inside Out, while maybe not being appropriate for children of all ages, is funny, heartbreaking, intelligent and sets a new standard for all Pixar films to come.
Inside Out, gets a much deserved 6.5/7
As my daughter is closer to 11 than 10, and weirdly resembles the animated Riley, I had a front row seat to her experiencing the film and reflecting on how she related so closely to the emotional ride the movie’s character went on. I used up my popcorn napkins entirely…and not from wiping my fingers. It was excellent and deeply moving 🙂