Friday, June 19, 2015

Movie Review: "Inside Out" (2015)

© Disney Pixar

WARNING: Come prepared with tissues a-plenty. Just don't use them all during the 8-minute short, Lava, that precedes the movie in theaters. Both bring the feels, mostly in the form of gushing tears.

Disney Pixar's newest venture is another foray into an imaginary world where abstract concepts are anthropomorphized. Inside each and every one of us lives a series of emotions. These emotions define who we are, affecting our memories and actions. Essentially, they are the drivers behind the wheel of a person-mobile. This film focuses on Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias), an 11-year-old girl who picks up and moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her adoring parents. She, like the rest of the world, is inhabited by five distinct emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). Luckily for Miss Riley, Joy has been at the driver's seat for much of their lives, defining Riley's happy childhood. That is until the big move, when Sadness accidentally touches Riley's core memories. In an attempt to make the now sad memories happy again, Joy and Sadness inadvertently get expelled from Headquarters, and must venture through the endless corridors of Riley's mind before everything that made Riley "Riley" disappears forever.

The world created is magnificently realized, creative in a way that we have now come to expect from Pixar. It was clever, though it doesn't deliver the surprised delight it may once have. We're spoiled now, I guess. Regardless, it has a depth that at first feels profound, but begins to edge on devastating; almost traumatic. It shouldn't surprise anyone that a movie about emotions—and how they develop, reorganize, change, and sometimes cripple—would be so damn emotional. But the comedic personalities granted these characters isn't quite enough to soften the sting of ebbing pain and depression. Inside Out constructs it all so beautifully, but is it maybe too much to expect children, or even some adults, to handle? I'm not sure. I love a good cry, so it was right up my alley.


The concept more or less instigates further thought and analysis, but it doesn't quite welcome it. And you'll do it whether you want to or not. You can't help but imagine what the inside of everyone else's minds look like. When you do see that, it's comedic and lighthearted, meant to prompt a good laugh, but it wouldn't always be that way. I found myself thinking a lot about that, distracted at the notion that there are kids out there with far less joy than Riley, and how dismal that story would have looked. I know, I know, it's not this story, so it shouldn't matter. But I couldn't help it—the idea leaked in and wouldn't wash away, even now.

**POSSIBLE SPOILERS** For the story that we were watching, though, it was frustrating to endure a character like Joy, so blind to the importance of other emotions. You see how it's supposed to be, through the other minds, the emotions sharing equal space at the table. Along with the emotional imbalance (which granted, is the definition of teenage-hood), the plot lends itself to that slogging feeling. Like a video game level where you grind and grind, for what feels like days, never getting anywhere... that is the journey of Joy and Sadness. Battling to get back to Headquarters—which is seriously right there!—but failing miserably to make progress in getting there. Admittedly, while this is a tedious aspect of the film, it's also the key component in delivering on the cathartic finale.

In the end, the movie was really stolen by Phyllis Smith as Sadness. She is, far and away, the most interesting and tragic character in the film. Her story takes a slightly predictable but no less spectacular turn, and I felt myself drawn to her plight as the seemingly unwanted part of Riley's mind. Inside Out has "Pixar Classic" written all over it, but it may fall into the "watch once" column for me, just like Up did. It's hard to feel this gut-punch-pain willingly, no matter how beautiful the film.

Rating: ★★★★ / 5 stars

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