We all go to the movies to be moved emotionally in one way or another; some of us like a good romance to bring joy to our day for others it might be a scary horror to give a cathartic dose of fear. For you it could be that tear jerking drama that helps let out a little pent up sadness or maybe even a gross-out comedy that disgusts yet delights and some even like the movies that make you angry for being so ridiculously bad that they can’t even evoke one these emotions. But rarely are there films that can evoke all five and only one where those very emotions are the main characters of the story.
On the surface Inside Out is a tale you’ve heard a hundred times before – a young girl has to move from her childhood home to a new state where her Dad has an important job lined up. So the family uproots their lives and she has to leave everyone and everything she loves behind to start all over again. A new house, new friends, new school; struggling to get settled into a new life is hard enough but when your emotions are out of control, quite literally, it’s even harder.
Inside Out reveals just what makes us tick for inside all of is a team working our every thought, every feeling and every emotion with an actual character personifying each one of these core emotions. Joy (Amy Poehler) is upbeat and bubbly; Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is down and gloomy; Anger (Lewis Black) is a pent up ball of fuming rage; Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is snarky and displeased and Fear (Bill Hader) wiry and jittery and together they manage this young girl Riley’s inner conflict from a control room inside her mind. From the second Riley opens her eyes in the morning to the second she closes them at night they are monitoring every moment she experiences. These moments are then generated in to a memory ball which come down an assembly line of sorts and are categorised and sorted by the workers inside.
When a memory is sad it turns to the colour of the corresponding emotion, joy is yellow, sadness is blue, red is angry, disgust is green and fear is purple so it’s easy to see the kind of day Riley has had and where it needs to be improved to make tomorrow a brighter day for her. Short term memories are stored in the control room and at the end of the day sent up a chute to long term memory, huge shelves as far as the eye can see housing millions and millions these glowing balls. But occasionally (just in real life) you experience a moment so defining that it becomes a core memory making it something that defines you as a person. These very special core memories are stored in a central unit and in the world of her mind branch out in to theme park representations of Riley’s defining personality traits. For Riley these consist of her family, her friends, her honesty, her love of hockey and her goofy personality.
The story kicks off when Sadness accidentally knocks Riley’s core memories out of place and while scrambling to save them both Sadness and Joy are sucked away along with the memories, out into the vast reaches of Riley’s mind.
This is where I was afraid it was going to turn in to a generic kid’s movie, brightly coloured characters on a pointless adventure to get the thing and take the thing to the place while the bad guy blah, blah, blah but the magic here is that every action inside has a consequence on the outside. So when Joy and Sadness leave the headquarters of Riley’s mind so does the joy and sadness in her life leaving Anger, Disgust and Fear left to deal with matters and in turn leaving Riley struggling with only those feelings.
The thing I absolutely love about Pixar is that they come up with a simple concept and then explore every single facet of it to squeeze out any potential joke, conflict or insight. What makes this movie so special is that no matter what gender, race, background or country you come form these are universal themes that everyone on the planet has experienced. Emotion is the common and undeniable bond we all share. The longer her core memories are away the more her defining personality traits break
away and crumble leaving her making poor decisions. It shows the simple way people can lose a sense of who they are in life and easily become lost, misguided or depressed. These are deep concepts represented in a way easy for children to understand and even psychologists are praising it’s complex yet simplified depiction. The moral of the movie ultimately being sometimes there is sadness in joy and that’s not always bad thing, it can be something that helps us all get through life.
In the same way Director Pete Docter explored the things that go bump in the night in Monsters Inc. and the way to bounce back from loss in Up here he once again excels at combining humour, adventure and emotion to tell a compelling and constantly insightful tale along with co-director Ronnie del Carmen continuing the trend of using veteran Pixar talent to usher in the new generation. This movie is guaranteed to make you laugh, cheer and cry sometimes all within the same scene. The subtle clever ways they display the way we think and feel are endless, whether it’s the train of thought, invisible friends, imagination represented as a movie studio where a cast and crew act out our dreams from a script of all the day’s events or a running gag about why we get those annoying commercial jingles stuck in our heads that got me every single time. Only after reflecting did I realise that this movie is entirely female led, even the supporting characters were outweighed with females over males. It is so refreshing to see females in an animated movie that are not princesses and even more refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t have to sign post “FEMALE MAIN CHARACTER” instead embracing it organically as if it wasn’t even an issue.
For a long time Pixar could do no wrong with a string of hits as they pioneered and trail blazed the world of computer animated movies. All their films had the magic to entertain children but were also bursting with A-list voice talent, biting innuendo and subtext that adults could also enjoy. Even if the Pixar title was taken off you could still feel their specific brand of magic working just under the surface. But with a slew of healthy competition (Dreamworks’ Shrek, Blue Sky Studio’s Ice Age, Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me) including from it’s own partner company Disney (Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen) it’s last few efforts started to lose some of that magic. Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University though still wildly profitable just didn’t seem to reach that standard and when something isn’t working Pixar weren’t afraid to start again. 2014 was the first time in eight years that they hadn’t consistently released a new movie every single year. Never been one to shy away from a challenge or push themselves, it’s this commitment to storytelling over profits or star vehicle-ing that sets these movies apart. Taking time away gave them a chance to step back, take focus and concentrate on returning to that standard. With space to breathe they have now set themselves up for the future and will deliver two movies a year from now on, if this is a sign of the calibre I cannot wait.
The quality of the movies were consistent because they came from a pure and honest place and so it’s a huge welcome to see Inside Out as a return to form sitting on par with those classics if, dare I say, maybe even exceeding everything that has come before.
A minor quibble is the design of the characters, they just seemed to generic for me and I found the fuzzy velvety texture to them an odd distraction, but the voice talent was so perfectly cast that it more the made up for it. I can also see how at first glance it may seem off putting for parents to go to a movie when all they know about it is there are brightly coloured smiling characters against a black back drop on a plain poster but please don’t let that put you off. If you have a child then you must take them to this movie now, you will not regret it and it might just help your child understand themselves a little better, what other kids movies can you say will do that? Minions? Hotel Transylvania? If you only get the chance to take them out for one movie these holidays make it this one, you will not regret it, and make sure to stay through the first half of the credits for absolutely hysterical insights in to some more unconventional minds, like the movie itself they are truly inspired.
Review by Dylan Boaden