Directed by: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
So I finally watched Inside Out a couple weeks ago, and I have to say it is probably on my top five list for animated movies. The story follows a young girl named Riley, who is uprooted from her hometown in the Midwest and moved to San Francisco. Her emotions- Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness- have to find the best way to deal with all the new changes. I’m not a big animated film person, but my immediate reaction to the movie was “Hands down, amazing.” Then, after taking some time to digest it and process my opinion before writing a review, I still say “Hands down, amazing.”
Pixar is known for creating animated films that not only appeal to younger audiences, but to adult ones as well. They have the ability to universally reach the emotions of their audience, creating a more in- depth and relate-able experience. Inside out is their most intelligent and powerful film, since Toy Story 3. The creative team takes an assumption- films can’t think, that we as viewers can only see the external emotions on a two dimensional screen- and completely buries it. Most of the story takes place in Riley’s head, with the five emotions as key characters. What happens to Riley on the outside is pretty simple; a move, an argument with parents at dinner, rough hockey tryout and a bad first day at school. But for anyone who has been her age or is her age, these things can cause a bit of mental conflict and drama. Which is where the art, the comedy and the poetry come into play ; we see past the exterior events and gain insight into what’s really going on inside. There is the command center- an imitation of a workplace sitcom- where the emotions go about their tasks.
The casting of these voices is perfection; Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehlr, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith and Bill Hader are a comedy dream team and bring their emotions to life. Joy acts as the head of command with the goal of keeping Riley happy at all times. Because of this, her main focus is on the containment of Sadness, who always comes close to tainting Riley’s core memories. At one point, Joy draws a circle around Sadness and tells her to stay inside the circle. This is a pretty deep metaphor of repression, and with this, Pixar turns a critical eye towards the expectation from adults and authority figures that children are supposed to be happy all the time. Riley’s parents make remarks about Riley being their happy girl, and in return they receive a smile, one we all know too well- the heartbreaking, “I actually need to cry but just grin and bear it” smile. Of course, the parents aren’t bad people, they are caught up in their own stuff as well.
The transformation for Riley comes when Joy and Sadness end up lost from headquarters, and have to find their way back. As their journey progresses, Riley falls deeper into a depression and she shuts down. Along the way, Joy and Sadness meet different characters, one being a forgotten imaginary friend. He becomes not only their guide, but a tool for helping Joy understand Sadness is not useless but a vital part in keeping our minds balanced. Sadness is needed in order to feel true joy- sometimes we have to let ourselves feel sad in order to come to terms with something; then we move on with a genuine sense of comfort and happiness. I could go on about all of the amazing philosophical themes put into literal terms, but I want this review to be spoiler free, so I won’t go into specifics. Basically, this theoretical and imaginative world Pixar creates, is new and strange as no one has attempted this concept yet, but it’s also familiar. We look at it and we see ourselves, we see our own emotions, our own fears and dreams and memories. We see the how our memories shape us and make us unique, we recognize the trials and tribulations that come with Riley’s phase of growing up. And so while Pixar tailors the characters, the colorful world and the humor to a younger age group, the underlying message speaks to everyone who has dealt with growing up or even, dealt with depression. At least, it did for me. I watched this girl lose her joy, lose where she came from, and I saw myself in her. I was her. Powerful stuff for an animated movie.