Inside Out is the new Pixar animated film and I’m happy to say that it’s a pretty good film. It’s not a pantheon Pixar flick like Toy Story, Monsters Inc, or The Incredibles but it doesn’t have the uneasy “well, yeah, it’s ok” middling feeling like Brave and Monsters University (and, good lord, it’s not Cars 2).
The premise (which is not original) is that we have a control room of sorts in our head where different characters representing our emotions work and react to what is happening in our world. In this case, young Riley is a girl whose family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco so her various fears and uncertainties (and her 11-year-old-ness) start to take over. It’s a very simple story and very relatable. It was wise they didn’t create a big Hollywood story for her since what’s going on in her head gets that treatment.
Her various emotions are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith from The Office), Disgust (Mindy Kaeling), Fear (Bill Hader), and Anger (Lewis Black, of course). This whole cast do a great joy and it’s so easy to see Amy Poehler’s (or Lesley Knope’s) boundless enthusiasm perfectly wrapped up in her character (and Lewis Black in his). I enjoyed the voice performances… and I enjoyed the real world characters. Riley and her parents are lovely people who you wish well.
The movie is smart about its visual representation of the inside of the head… it’s inventive and clever and it feels like Pixar has thought it through. What I liked most is how much jealousy I have for little kids who see the film and think it’s a fun and funny pic… and as they get older, what the movie says about complex emotions will start to make more sense and they will have realizations that the cute little film they saw when younger is actually a pretty smart exploration of a complex emotional landscape we all have. Yes, I was impressed at what the movie had to say about the simple emotions we have as children becoming complex mixes of emotional soup as we age (and how that’s ok).
So overall a success. I laughed quite a bit and I was made to think about some clever concepts. It has some raw emotional moments that may make you cry. And, hey, sometimes we see into the head of other characters and their versions of control rooms and these characters. My favorite was what a cat’s inside head looks like which very much explains why they are so random and weird (watch the end credits).