Director: Pete Docter
Starring: Amy Poehler, Diane Lane, Kyle McLachlan, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Richard Kind, Paula Poundstone, Bobby Moynihan, Frank Oz, Flea
Rated: PG (mild thematic elements and some action)
After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.
By Cole Schneider
Pixar Animation Studios has been as commercially and critically successful as any studio in the world since its arrival with “Toy Story”. For me, the studio peaked from 2007-2009 when it released “Ratatouille”, “Wall-E”, and “Up”, but it has spent five years floundering. Some recent efforts have been good (“Toy Story 3”, “Brave”), and some have been decidedly bad (“Cars 2”, Monsters University”), but none had the funny, emotional elegance of the studios best. “Inside Out” comes the closest since “Up”, and is notably only the second in that time-frame to be an original concept.
“Inside Out” is a magnificent achievement. Its core story follows Riley, an 11 year-old girl as her family moves away from her hometown, but most of the story is told inside her head as we watch anthropomorphised emotions controlling her from ‘headquarters’. The looming potential problem with telling this story is that its main characters–Joy and Sadness, along with Fear, Anger, and Disgust–are inherently one dimensional. We can trust the Pixar braintrust, and especially director Pete Docter (“Monsters Inc.”, “Up”) to build a convincing arc for Riley, but how can this be done for the characters in her head?
You will have to watch to find out, but trust me, it happens. It happens with grace and conviction, and you absolutely should watch it. This in fact may be a mandatory watch for kids. I have never seen a film treat its young audience with this kind of respect and end with this kind of authentic, melancholic uplift. Pixar is back on the map in a big way.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
After some ho-hum years and too many sequels, Pixar is back and better than ever with Inside Out, a boldly unique animated film that renews our faith in what a giant studio can do with an original concept. Docter combines the strengths of his two Pixar masterworks here: the endless inventiveness of Monster’s Inc. and the poignant strength of Up. A truly fantastic mixture of fantasy-adventure-comedy and small-family-drama, it’s a genius work of conception, execution and emotion that will go down in the annals of Disney animation as an instant and enduring classic.
It follows Joy, the leading-emotion of an 11-year-old girl, as she tries to navigate a big change in her young life. Much like Toy Story 3, we’re shown the inherent difficulties of growing up through a fresh viewpoint, learning what makes you “you”. It’s a convoluted idea that’s nearly impossible to explain, and yet Pixar nails it, perfectly shifting between its parallel universes with ease. The humor throughout will undoubtedly have kids and adults in equal stitches, with fantastic turns from everyone, notably Poehler, Smith, Black, and Kind. However, this film’s high-point may be the multiple emotional gut-punches that will reduce parents to tears.
That fearlessness to be gloomy is basically the thesis of the film: true joy comes when every emotion is allowed to be recognized and dealt with healthfully. It’s quite a psychologically complex stance to take for a film that manages to be so kid-friendly. This wonderful balancing act helps make Inside Out worthy of the “M” word (masterpiece) and gives it the distinction of being Pixar’s best since the unparalleled Toy Story.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars