Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Phyliss Smith
Runtime: 94 Minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Hooray! Pixar is back! It has been almost 5 years since Pixar touched greatness. “Toy Story 3” came out in late 2010 and it it had clever humor, an exciting prison break sequence, and all of the emotions. Pixar seemed like an unstoppable machine. Then “Cars 2” happened, and it was sort of okay (and by “sort of”, I mean I don’t want to offend the studio because I kind of love them).
It was the first Pixar movie that was mostly appealing for kids and didn’t seem to have a real purpose except for making more money and selling more toys. “Brave” was really great (girl power!), “Monsters University” was fine but only slightly more necessary than “Cars 2”. To find it’s heart again, Pixar went back to Pete Docter who wrote and directed “Up”, one of the Pixar most emotionally powerful films. I am happy to say that in “Inside Out”, Docter outdoes himself and once again creates something great.
Those who have seen the rest of Pixar movies know that a world within the world is a common theme. “Finding Nemo”, the “Toy Story” trilogy, “A Bug’s Life” and “Monsters Inc” all feature a sub-universe that happens within and interacts with a mostly oblivious human universe (this human interaction, incidentally, is what is missing from both Cars movies and “Monsters University”).
“Inside Out” uses this plot device again but does so in a completely different way. Much of the film is set inside the brain of an 11 year old girl named Riley where 5 personified emotions – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger – must work together to help guide Riley through difficult life changes.
While many tv episodes and movies have occurred inside the body, I don’t recall many occurring within the brain. When the body is the setting there are things that we are basically familiar with. We can imagine blood streams and the heart and lungs, and even white blood cells fighting germs. In “Inside Out”, Docter and his animation team had to create a brand new world. They created an entire infrastructure showing how are memories and our emotions interact. The result is entertaining and extremely creative.
Another strength of the film is the voice performances. Sure, there is a lot of type casting happening (of course Lewis Black voices Anger) but when your characters are personified emotions typecasting is kind of the point and it works. Amy Poehler (obviously channeling Leslie Knope) does a particular great job and pulls off the difficult task of being ridiculously optimistic while remaining very likable.
I could keep going, but I’ll just say that everything here works. The story is well constructed and the characters learn and grow in very interesting and thought provoking ways. While people of all ages can enjoy this film, some of what’s happening will likely be too heavy or complex to be fully appreciated by very young viewers. They will still enjoy it, but they could probably watch it every couple years and get more out of it, which is actually a strength. This will definitely be one that we end up owning in our household and it shows that Pixar has still got it.
On the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Inside Out’ an almost perfect 4.96234712 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: WOW