Saturday, June 20, 2015

Inside Out Review

Consider my expectations exceeded.

You know, I think it goes without saying that Pixar is a company that can do very little wrong. Nearly every single title in their library is an instant classic that has people talking about it for months after its release, or even years later. Hell, it's been several years, but we're still talking about Toy Story 3's ending, Up's intro, Jessie's tear inducing history in Toy Story 2, and pretty much all of Finding Nemo. Pixar has made some of the best kids movies ever made, and even though they did not release a movie last year, breaking it's one movie per year tradition in over a decade, we were thankfully able to get Inside Out released. And it might just now be one of my favorite animated movies ever made.

The concept is deceptively simple. The entire movie revolves around a girl named Riley who just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco. However, the story doesn't revolve around her at all. Instead, it's about the emotions inside of her head. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger all live in her head and control her actions, memories, and most importantly, her feelings. Each emotion has a distinct personality, and they all attempt to help Riley adapt to her new life in San Francisco, while also helping her mature and grow up at the same time.

Now, all of that isn't intentional though. Each emotion is delightfully cast and argue, bicker, and try to work with each other to figure out what works for Riley, What Anger thinks should happen in a situation could be completely different from what Joy thinks should happen, and seeing how each emotion affects Riley's actions is fascinating to watch. Trust me, this is a very cerebral movie, but in the best way possible. It's simple enough for kids to understand, complex enough for adults to enjoy, and colorful enough to keep everyone happy.

It's rare for me to say this, but I love every possible frame in this movie. The animation is impeccable, and the character designs are unique enough that each emotion looks distinct in their own way, as well as other parts of Riley's mind. We see her imagination, her dreams, her subconscious, and it's all fascinating to watch. The movie just looks soft and almost like felt, or some other kind of material used to make stuffed animals. Even the grumpy Anger looks adorable with his soft exterior, despite how angry he can get. But above all else, this movie has color. Remember when color used to be popular in movies? Most movies now tend to avoid using bright and vivid colors, and it's so pleasing to see purples, blues, and bright reds on screen. Visually, it's a treat for everyone.

But let's not talk about the movie and its aesthetic. Let's talk about the psychology behind the movie. To me, the real crux of this movie lies in how each major plot point is able to affect Riley's development. Instead of seeing a character act and wonder what goes through their head, we now have access to that. We can now see everything that goes on in a character's mind, let alone a young 11 year old girl's mind. She's forced to face reality and to grow up, to mature into a new person. At the same time though, she has to completely leave her past behind, both literally and figuratively. Because of that, her emotions are panicking. Their status quo is completely removed where Riley's core memories are lost, making her into a person who's truly undergoing a metamorphosis. Riley is leaving her past, her childhood behind in Inside Out.

I'm sure we can all remember a huge life event that shaked our lives and the very core of who we are. Whether it was the loss of a loved one, moving to a new town, leaving home, or just plain growing up, we all had moments where we had to change. But the most difficult, and saddest change in our lives, might be maturing from a child into an adult. Inside Out drives home the idea of how happy Riley was as a child and that most of her emotions growing up were only joy. Joy had the most impact in Riley's life and made her feel special. The other more negative emotions had no place in her head or in her everyday life. But as Riley grows up, as we see in the movie, Joy becomes less essentially. Her tough life moments are defined by Fear, Disgust, Anger, and eventually Sadness. This movie outright says to children that growing up is difficult and is full of tears, but sadness should not be discouraged from a person's life. In fact, having sad moments help mold Riley into who she will become, along with all of the other emotions.

That's probably the deepest meaning I've seen yet in a Pixar movie. Yes Pixar has dabbled with accepting death, watching loved ones die (a lot of loved ones dying), and isolation from society, but this is a much more interesting and mature message to send to children. Inside Out touches upon ideas that say yes, life is complex, but that's nothing to worry about. It's what makes us human and what makes us capable to handle rough situations. Hell, Pixar even goes incredibly dark witht he ideas of ideas being erased from existence, or in other words, forgotten. To me, that idea is even more terrifying than facing death. Surrounding most of Riley's mind is an area called The Abyss, where memories and ideas are eventually wiped from Riley's mind. She forgets them and are never mentioned again. It's an innate human fear to be completely forgotten, as if their entire life had no purpose or meaning, so seeing that abstracted onto fictional characters is incredibly dark. I won't spoil what happens, but to see ideas and thoughts that were filled with such happiness and fun erased completely from existence, as if they had never happened, amounts to one of Pixar's saddest moments in years. It's on the same level as Andy giving away his toys sad.

Outside of that existential thought process, Inside Out even manages to fill itself with some great humor too. Ever character have great jokes and their interactions between each other are pure comic gold. Anger in particular, played by the legendary Lewis Black, steals the show for me. Everything he says is hilarious, his reactions are priceless, and he makes the movie even better than it already is. Because Lewis Black is awesome. We even get some great jokes by watching other people's emotions. We see Riley's parent's emotions for a few quick jokes, as well as several characters during the credits and seeing what goes on in their heads. All of them are comic gold, though one particular detail did disappoint me.

We see Riley's parent's emotions early on in the movie for a quick scene that is instantly hilarious, but I feel like her parent's emotions were under utilized. During the climax of the movie, I would have loved to see her parent's show their emotions and see how they react to what Riley is feeling. Again, most of the focus is on Riley, her emotions, and her coming of age, but I would have started to bawl my eyes out if we saw her parent's emotions react to what Riley was doing. There wouldn't have to be any dialogue, just acknowledgement that they're processing this event the same way Riley does. More depth is never a bad thing for this movie, even though this movie is dense.

I just can't deal with how good this movie is. I've been looking forward to this movie all year, and it did not disappoint. I'd be hard pressed to say that I don't think any other movie this summer is going to be as good as Inside Out. I'm just so stoked that this movie even exists. I mean what movie has the director come on screen before the movie even starts and genuinely thanks the audience for coming to see it? None that I can think of. I suppose the one thing about the movie that I didn't like was the Pixar short before it called Lava,which was a love story about two volcanoes. It was okay, but didn't have the same kind of kick as previous Pixar shorts, or even Disney animated shorts. Then again, I can't really tie my opinion of Lava in with Inside Out because of how different the two of them are. Besides, they don't reference or influence each other, so... I don't really care that I didn't like the short and that I loved the movie.

This is a movie that I recommend everyone should see. You should see it, you're friend should see it, your kids should see it, even make your dog go see it. Everyone will enjoy this movie and everyone will shower praise onto this movie. Welcome back Pixar.



  1. Inside Out shows what happens when Pixar puts their best directors at the helm. Pete Doctor is Pixar's first major director since Up, which he happened to direct as well. Inside Out is a fantastic film and one that will make you feel all of the emotions that exist in the film. All of the voice actors, especially Poehler, Smith, and Black, are great as well. Without a doubt, this film is Pixar's best since Toy Story 3 and possibly its best ever. It's up there with Wall-E and Finding Nemo. You must see it, even if you aren't a fan of animated films.

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  2. Here's a suggestion. Around when Coco comes out you should do your ranking of the Pixar movies from favorite to least favorite.