Pixar. Just saying the name gives you memories of some of the best stories and moments ever put on film. I don’t have to list them because you already know them. So when a studio who is known for telling stories that are so resoundingly emotional, what happens when they tackle emotion…head on. It’s a pun, relax.
Inside Out begins with Riley, our human heroine opening her eyes for the first time and feeling her very first emotion, Joy. Joy has a brief moment of exhilaration at being Riley’s entire world, until she is swiftly interrupted by the somber and ever blue sadness. The film then moves on in montage set up fashion of giving us the break down of Riley’s mind and the strongest elements of her, which create her islands of personality. Things like family, friendship, and Hockey. We meet the other three emotions, Disgust, Fear and Anger, and are treated to the back and fourth of the five colorful characters steering Riley’s every move and we’re off to the races. Everything is going great in Riley’s world, until out of nowhere she gets packed up, ripped from her life, and moved across the country.
From here on out Riley’s emotions brilliantly struggle with the culture shock and each other as they truly exemplify what it’s like to not know how to feel. Her emotions bicker about what to do with their new surroundings and in a truly relatable moment from Riley, sends Joy and Sadness out of control into the labyrinth of long-term memory. We then move into a framiliar Pixar technique of separating characters from their home and child all while they attempt to survive each other to find their way back. This journey portion of the film is where the writers really try and impress you. We are introduced not only to long-term memory, but a Train of Thought that is fact, a train, the dream productions movie studio, and an Emmett Kelly-esque imaginary friend Bing Bong who is part elephant, part cotton candy, and part dolphin.
These elements are so intriguing that it is slightly disappointing to have most of them disappear as quickly as they came as if there was a psych major on the writing team who just wanted to drop a few names. In some scenes it feels as though they are trying to be smarter than their audience, and that means everyone, not just kids. The characters even enter a room of abstract thought and become two dimensional, so you have that going for you. The crazy road trip devise is one Pixar uses albeit often, but well, and for any mythology fans you’ll be pleased that Joy and Sadness literally travel from Island to Island to find their way home.
It is very impressive what Pixar is able to do especially with the stark contrast of Riley’s mind to the world outside her own head. The control room where her emotions run the show is gleamingly clean, colorful and new, as opposed to her home in San Francisco that is dirty, grey and falling apart. This film as silly and obvious as it sounds seeing as this isn’t a movie about cooking rats, monsters, or robots is simply so human. It’s more than relatable and keeps you focused on the story instead of your watch, as you really do want to see if Joy is able to get back to Riley and make her feel happiness again. Seeing inside her parent’s head’s plays out wonderfully like a battle from Star Trek as the three sets of emotions trade blows of Anger. The movie has a lot of scenes like that where it’s just able to be extremely funny. I loved seeing the perfect boyfriend machine, the ending montage of everyone’s emotions, and especially the nod to Chinatown. Yes, in a children’s movie about emotions, there is a quote from Chinatown. Seriously, only Pixar.
Inside Out is certainly a return to what Pixar does best. It delivers the hands down best animation in the market and matches it with memorable characters and a story premise that is both original and engaging. You can really tell this one is all from the heart. It may not make you fight back the man tear of seeing Andy give away his toys but it does hit home emotionally in a sweet and enticing way. Despite a few underdeveloped elements what Inside Out really offers you is fun. Unlike so many other films that try to pack in the action, explosions, and noise, it is a more than welcome reprieve to see a film that is brimming with life, love, and especially joy. If you need a break from superheroes and sequels this summer, it’s a more than safe bet to head Inside Out.