Hooked on a Feeling
InsideOut is Pixar’s 15th feature film release. The story is centered on Riley, an 11 year old girl, who is flooded with varied emotions, when her family leaves her childhood home of Minnesota for a new life in San Francisco. What transpires over the next 94 minutes is a color filled magically story that is, in some ways, more grounded than anything Pixar has done before.
*Disclaimer: there might be some slight spoilers in the review. Please read at your own risk*
The movie focuses on the 5 emotions that live inside of Riley’s (and everyone else’s) head. They are Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Each one has a specific voice that you can hear through Riley’s actions as they take turns at the “wheel” or control board at the center of Riley’s brain. The most clever thing about the movie is that we see these emotions brought to life and given character, but the actions of each one are so build into our own psyche that it’s like we are watching a movie about ourselves.
The through line of the story is that Joy and Sadness get lost in “Long Term Memories” and have to find their way back to the main control room before Anger, Fear, and Disgust ruin Riley for good. Along the way they have adventures with old imaginary friends and visit the place where dreams are made. And, in the end, they learn that they all play a very important part in Riley’s life and must work together to see her through this hard time.
The movie is written and directed by Pete Docter. Pete also wrote and directed Monsters, Inc. and Up and he also wrote Wall*E, so out of the gate you know that you are in good hands. The voice work is also very well done, with Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith doing most of the heavy lifting as Joy and Sadness, respectively. I do have to say that Lewis Black as Anger might be the best thing of all time, he was brilliant.
InsideOut, like Up, is a movie that was tailor made for me. It’s poignant and smart. It’s funny and exciting. And, like all of Pixar’s movies, it’s busting with heart. However, it tells a different story than most when it grabs your heart strings. The biggest surprise for me is that death was not used in InsideOut. It’s really a troupe of these kinds of movies. Up, Finding Nemo, and The Lion King are all examples of movies where they showcased death to bring weight to the character’s evolution. I applaud Pixar for staying away from death. Furthermore, there is also no antagonist. There is no made up boogie man that is trying to take over the brain center. In that way, the movie tells a story that is about the everyday internal struggle that we all face. They use Riley’s family relocating as a catalyst for her emotional breakdown and I came away feeling refreshed and felt it was much more relate-able because of it.
It’s not a perfect film though. There were some inconsistencies with several side characters and I feel like the Mother and Father were way under used. When they were together with Riley on the screen, and all of their emotions were being shown, it was truly engaging. I also felt they could have been a little better summation at the end of the film. The resolution with sadness and her importance to the team was a very mature, high concept that I feel wasn’t wrapped up as neatly as the rest of the film. My 8 year old daughter asked me several questions at the end concerning what actually happened. It would have added great value to the film, as a whole, to flesh out the resolution just a little more and made it a tad be accessible. It is still marketed directly at a younger audience.
In conclusion, InsideOut is the first Pixar release since Up that I would call a film. The movie has something very important and, honestly, very mature to say, and Docter delivered it so crystal clear. It was like watching Psychology for Dummies and enjoying every moment. I always value a movie that makes me feel smarter after seeing it and InsideOut accomplished that in technicolor style. Now, lie down and tell me about your childhood…