Film Review: Inside Out (★★★½)

Inside OutThe buzz has been huge for Pixar’s latest venture about the mind of a little girl and the emotions that live within her.  Writer/directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen, along with co-scribes Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley create a film with the most simple and authentic concept, and turns it into a methodical, moving, and layered story with so many different themes to indulge.  Though there is a minor element to the film that leaves you a bit cold, “Inside Out” is clearly successful in its approach and just about everything you want in a family film this time of year.

“Inside Out” tells the story of Riley, an eleven-year-old girl whose family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco.  In her mind live five real, and relatable feelings: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger.  When Joy and Sadness accidently are thrown into the land of Riley’s long-term memories, Riley undergoes a barrage of emotions that are affecting her relationships with family, friends, and the things she loves.  Now, Joy and Sadness must get back to her core command in order to restore Riley’s feelings and relationships.

Teamed with the voice talents of Amy Poehler ( who plays “Joy”), Phyllis Smith (who plays “Sadness”), Bill Hader (who plays “Fear”), Lewis Black (who plays “Anger”), and Mindy Kaling (who plays “Disgust”), Pixar’s joyful and moving animated feature presents equal parts of humor and tears.  A fascinating deconstruction of the mind of a child, and the changes they endure along the way.  The subject matter is among Pixar’s most ambitious and their most impressive since “WALL-E.”

What shines bright is the stunning animation on screen.  A beautiful array of colors, just hypnotizing to the eyes as “Joy” and “Sadness” venture off into different parts of Riley’s mind.  I’d say this is definitely among Pixar’s most alluring and aesthetically beautiful films they’ve ever created.

As we’ve come to expect from an Oscar-winning composer like Michael Giacchino, the score for “Inside Out” is subtly impeccable.  Among his most reserved compositions, Giacchino takes a back seat to the story and lets the film do its work through imagery and narration.

inside-outPresenting another key reason for a Voice Work Oscar to be created, both Poehler and Smith are downright magnificent in two of the year’s finest performances.  Poehler’s Joy anchors the film with a glaze of sweetness, and when called upon, will break your heart with epic emotions.  Smith’s Sadness is a devastating but truly compelling creation, as she bridges our thoughts through tears and loss.  Those two will be putting your tearducts to work and in overdrive in several moments.  This is another shining example of a female-driven feature that is just as enjoyable, if not more, than any other male protagonist in films today.  Film producers need to start taking notice of the slate of successes this year and what they need to do to
change the landscape.

Where the film doesn’t completely connect is in its supporting characters, in particular Anger and Disgust.  With no fault going to the sensational voice work of Lewis Black and Mindy Kaling, the narrative creation of their place in the story doesn’t seem to quite jive.  “Anger” is a simple emotion to portray, but I found minor inconsistencies in his character’s actions that were noticeable.  “Disgust,” which probably would have been better off being called “Sarcasm” just didn’t seem like a core emotion that I think exists in the mind of an eleven year old girl.  While I think “Disgust” is something that the younger minds can easily understand, I think a different direction may have been needed for her inclusion.  Other players like Bill Hader, Diane Lane (who plays Mom), and Kyle MacLachlan (who plays Dad) are strongly assembled.  Special shout out to Kaitlyn Dias, who voices Riley, is vivaciously real in each delivery and each line.

With no shortage of tears for the adults, and big laughs for the kids, “Inside Out” fits firmly in the top-tier of Pixar’s most vibrant pictures.  An echo of love and vulnerability, the feature is gorgeously inventive and passionately executed.  A fine selection for all to enjoy, no matter what age.  Your frontrunner for the Animated Feature Oscar for 2015 has arrived.

In addition, the Pixar short “Lava” is stunningly delightful and powerfully engaging.  Likely another contender for an Animated Short Academy Award.