Ever since Pixar came out with Toy Story in the mid 90s, I’ve been a big fan of Pixar films. What I love about most of them is behind the imaginative concepts and inventive visuals, the stories aren’t devoid of heart. Well, that principle is in full display with this latest movie.
This time, the protagonists aren’t people, animal or aliens, but the emotions that reside within an 11-year-old girl, Riley. As if a preteen girl’s life isn’t complicated enough, being uprooted from the Upper Midwest all the way to San Francisco certainly is a big adjustment. Watching Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness bicker with each other on how to best navigate Riley’s new environment is a real blast!
The fact that the young protagonist is from Minnesota makes it extra amusing for me. I didn’t realize that at first but I suppose the scenes with all the snow, the family going skating and the fact that Riley LOVES hockey should’ve been a major giveaway. Pixar really immerses you into their imaginative universe here. The headquarter where the four major emotions operate in is so fun and inventive, such as how each memory is stored within this glowing orb and the whole process of how it gets sent up the memory tube. There’s also Riley’s Island of Personality: Family Island, Honesty Island, Hockey Island, Friendship Island and Goofball Island, each powered by Riley’s core memory.
Figuring out how Riley’s internal *universe* work is part of the movie’s charm, and of course, the four emotions are such a hoot. I absolutely adore Joy who’s now become one of my favorite Pixar characters. Amy Poehler is the perfect choice to bring her character to life. She utterly lives up to the name in every way… an absolute joy to watch and listen to. The voice work is stellar all around, as to be expected in a Pixar movie. Nice to see so many female voice cast, too. Mindy Kalling as Disgust is delightfully snarky and Kaitlyn Dias as Riley is appropriately bubbly and full of angst, as you’d expect every preteen to be. Bill Hader is perfect as Fear and Richard Kind is memorable as Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong who’s a bizarre combination of an elephant, a cat, candy, and a dolphin. Oh and it cries candy, it really doesn’t get more adorable than that!
For anyone who’s ever experienced moving to a new town at a young age, forced to abandon the friends and environment we’ve grown to love, we can certainly identify with Riley. But truly, Inside Out‘s is relatable no matter what age you are because we’ve all experienced growing up. The movie mostly takes place within Riley’s head, but occasionally it goes into the mind of Riley’s mom and dad. The one that gets the most laugh is the closing credit sequence when it zooms inside the mind of dogs and cats. Boy I could watch an entire movie of a cat version of Inside Out! Now there’s a spinoff idea. Oh and I have got to mention the hunky Brazilian Helicopter Pilot, that bit was hilarious and I certainly can relate to THAT 😉
This film’s concept is brilliant and inherently challenging one as it deals with the psychology and science of the brain which, if not handled well, could easily be quite boring. Yet directors Pete Docter (who I just realized is a Minnesota native) and Ronaldo Del Carmen somehow made all the science stuff so whimsical and delightful, without forgoing accuracy. Per this article, Pixar worked with UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner, an expert on the science of emotion, which I think help flesh out the animated personifications of the four major emotions depicted in the film.
Final Thoughts: I had a lot of fun with this one. I’d think this movie would appeal to both kids and adults, though I’d imagine parents of preteens/teens would get a real kick out of this. Inside Out is not just an entertaining family fare, but it’s also an affecting one that gives us an insight into our humanity in the most delightful way. Not sure yet how this movie will rank amongst my all time animated favorites like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall•E over time, but this is definitely another winner from Pixar.