Inside Out: Film Review
Vocal cast: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind, Mindy Kaling
Director: Pete Dochter, Ronaldo del Carmen
For a film that’s squarely pitched at the kids, there’s something definitively adult about Pixar’s latest animation, a piece that puts them back on top of the game, but may see some younger elements scratching their own heads simply because life has not fully dealt to them yet.
A kind of Herman’s Head for the 21st century, Inside Out focusses on 11 year old Riley, a young girl whose safe and happy life is upended when her parents force them to relocate to San Francisco from their beloved Minnesota.
But the turmoil in her life is all controlled by her emotions within her head – team leader and upbeat Joy (Poehler), the purple and overly cautious Fear (Hader), the permanently blue Sadness (Smith), the fiery hothead Anger (Black) and Disgust (Kaling). When Joy and Sadness end up displaced within Riley’s mind, it causes chaos for the 11 year old – and the two lost emotions race to get back to their proper place before it’s too late.
Juggling predominantly adult themes while never once alienating the kids, Inside Out ends up being one of the richest emotional – and occasionally abstract - experiences Pixar’s created.
As Riley deals with impending adolescence and the natural and sadly inevitable need to put aside childish things, the anthropomorphic emotions come to the fore and with them, a growing realisation that the joy which leads the formative years needs to be mixed with other emotions, chiefly sadness as part of the growing up cycle.
In parts, Inside Out is likely to hit several emotional targets higher with its older audience, because of the transition of life, the journey of growing up and the reality of benefiting from experience. Darker moments, like the toys facing their demise in Toy Story 3, pepper parts of the film, dulling perky Amy Poehler’s exuberantly peppy Joy and increasing Phyllis Smith’s character Sadness, an emotion in the ascendant so pertinent to mastering life.
One sequence involving a childhood imaginary friend reeks of such universality and recognition that you’ll be hard pressed to find an adult swiping away a tear in the dark. Equally, a series of abstract jokes manage a cross-generational appeal thanks to Pixar aiming for the fun in among the emotion.
But it’s to Inside Out’s credit that the powers that be never lose sight of the age range of their audience, ensuring that the three remaining emotions in charge of Riley’s head give the film its more manic edge (specifically Lewis Black’s Anger and Bill Hader’s Fear) to appeal to the kiddies as the tone darkens. Smartly balancing inside Riley’s head with the outside world doesn’t mean the world class animation becomes too introspective, and Pixar’s used its palette with bright colours of the emotions mixing with the washed out world that Riley lives in to maximum effect.
Inside Out manages a brilliant balancing act between celebrating the best of childhood, growing up and what hand life deals you while never forgetting the humour and heart. It's Pixar's most rounded and most grounded film - and it's an instantly inventive classic from them you can't afford to miss.