Have you ever wondered what’s going on inside people’s heads? That’s the big question that Pixar is creatively attempting to answer in their fifteenth animated feature, Inside Out. After years of mediocre titles from the animation powerhouse, Inside Out stands out as Pixar’s first original film since Up in 2009. But originality alone does not a good movie make. A film can have a good idea and still mess up the execution to the point of making it unwatchable. In fact going into the theatre, I was worried about what I was about see after being so disappointed with the last few Pixar films. Would I see something that harkened back to the good old Pixar that could seemingly do no wrong, or would it be another title in a trend of ok but not great animated features. Well I’m happy to say that Inside Out is an emotionally-charged animated gem that’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
The premise is simple and yet allows for an incredible amount of possibilities. In the world of Inside Out, our minds are the control centers of us. Ok, so that doesn’t seem very different from our reality, but the key difference is that in this universe, we are controlled by five embodiments of emotion. Now the laws and specifics of this universe aren’t fully explored, but the emotions are broken down to joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. Each is an extreme of that particular emotion. Joy is blindingly happy, sadness is (pardon the express) depressingly somber, you get the idea.
Inside Out takes place inside the mind of 11 year-old Riley Anderson. Without going into too much of the plot, Riley’s life is turned upside down when she moves from wintery and wholesome Minnesota to the craziness that is San Francisco. This creates some problems for Riley’s emotions and the chaos begins from there. Now what Inside Out does terrifyingly well is give reason (if you can call five voices inside your head reason) to the madness that is growing up. But it doesn’t do it in a way that’s conventional. This isn’t about trying to make everyone happy; it’s about being emotionally balanced. Though that isn’t obvious to the mind of an 11-year old.
Inside Out’s greatest strength isn’t the animation. Not to say the film doesn’t look good, the world inside our heads does look great. But what makes this movie a joy (sorry) to watch is the emotions and their impact on Riley, for better and for worse. As I watched the film I could help but think about my own “emotions” and what they might be saying in my own head. I can’t help but think that joy, fear, and sadness would be at odds constantly. But I digress.
Bringing the emotions to life is a phenomenal cast. Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Bill Hader and Fear, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, and Lewis Black as Anger. All of them are perfect in their roles. If there’s one complaint I have about the film, it’s that we do spend too much time with Joy and Sadness. Fear, Disgust, and Anger do play important roles, but I almost wish we got to see them a bit more. I found them more interesting as characters. Well, as interesting as representations of emotions get that is.
Inside Out not only proves that Pixar still has a few tricks up its sleeves, it can still create animated masterpieces. It’s a film that I hope gets a sequel, as there’s so much to love about the concepts explored in this movie. In fact the end credits alone opens up a world of possibilities that is begging for more air time. An animated film that’s so much more, you need go see this and have it blow your mind.