With other blockbusters at the movie theater right now, it may seem like there are more enticing options than a Disney Pixar movie about feelings. That being said, Inside Out is a pleasant surprise with not only the thoroughly enjoyable charm of a classic Disney Pixar movie, but also the emotionally-powerful storytelling expected from a movie geared to an audience over the age of six.
Inside Out’s success lies in its honest-to-god, ground-breaking concept. The story centers around Riley, a hockey-loving gal who is uprooted from the comforts of Minnesota when her family decides to move to San Francisco. Ew. Riley faces the challenge of starting a new school in an unfamiliar place, which automatically ups the empathy factor for any audience member who has shared the experience. Most of the action, which is key in separating Inside Out from any previous Disney creation, takes place in Riley’s mind. A cast of emotions, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) are lead by Joy (vibrantly voiced by Amy Poehler) in influencing Riley’s emotional state via a control panel in her head. Each emotion steps up to the plate to do their part (and their bickering is the comedic highlight of the film), but with the stresses of the relocation, conflict occurs when Sadness takes a more prominent role than Joy in the inner working of Riley’s mind.
From the opening sequence, it is clear the game has changed and the audience is taken to a place and reality no movie has significantly investigated before. For the first time, something as universal as emotion, memory, and thought is given life and represented with the gorgeous animation only Pixar can offer. The newly-introduced world is painstakingly crafted, punctuated by racks and shoots containing memories in multi-colored marble-like orbs, separate theme park style islands that encompass the different aspects of Riley’s personality, a literal train of thought, and even a Hollywood type studio called the “Dream Production Agency”. The world directors Pete Docter (Up and Monsters Inc.) and Ronaldo Del Carmen have crafted is both highly inventive and compulsively watchable.
Each emotion stays true to their namesake (and will no doubt remind the audience of someone they personally know), but all of the characters are complex and multidimensional to ensure that the concept never feels tired. Inside Out is incredibly raw for a movie geared toward children, but triumphant in that anyone, no matter their age, can and will relate to this heart warming portrayal of, when it comes down to it, the human experience. Inside Out is accessible in the sense that anyone can enjoy it for its creativity, wit, and action packed plotline (although one could have used some time to breathe. It’s not Mad Max, afterall), but at the same time, its construction and content beg for further examination of the film and of ourselves. Inside Out had heart (and head) in excess and overall will make anyone, no matter who they are, feel all sorts of ways.