FINALLY Pixar has returned to give us an original film. The last one was Brave in 2012, which belongs low on their bottom shelf… The last great original film they’ve done was Up in 2009 which is a classic at this point. Inside Out, while not one of their finest films, is a warm and welcome return for the once all powerful tear inducing studio.
Like last years instant classic masterpiece Boyhood, Inside Out is a film that reminds you of your fondest memories: Best friends. Family events. Emotional moments alone. Imaginary friends. Moving. First day of school. Pixar’s new imaginative creation is a trip inside a young girl named Riley’s head. Inside are characters that are her emotions. Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness. Led by Amy Poehler as Joy, the voice cast is perfect which is usual for Pixar. The film is simply about a girl moving from her hometown and how it affects her. It’s one of the most relatable moments for all humans and this is why Pixar shines. They take simplest of human emotions and moments we all go through and turn them into imaginative adventures ripe with grand stories, laugh out loud jokes, life lessons and emotional gut punches.
Inside Out‘s concepts are actually a bit complicated and full of psychology, philosophy, and humanity. It’s all distilled into an understandable narrative for children while also using smart humor and calculated emotion to get even the toughest of adults to reach for the tissues. There are some fascinating underlying elements that even I, a psychology nut, am fascinated to think about and wrestle with. Imagination rules Riley’s mind, and the film itself, with concepts and ideas. The great achievement here is that the film not only visualizes what’s going on Riley’s head but makes us feel what she’s feeling.
For sheer creativity it’s an excellent film, but it’s concepts completely overrule the narrative to the point of it being a predictable and sometimes boring one. Effectively this is a pure idea film and it’s clinical with it’s world of rules and never let the story and characters hit full steam ahead. The mechanics of the film are imaginative but the story didn’t have the right tuning. The characters and story are victim to the concepts of the film. The characters effectively become explaining robots at points. Luckily the ideas and rules of the world are so creative, and funny that we can enjoy ourselves. Where the film shines is it’s ability to make human emotions into something understandable in a logical way for all ages.
Joy and Sadness are the key characters here while the others are left for solely comic relief. This is one of the few Pixar films in which a lot of the characters are sadly one-dimensional. To be fair they all are part of Riley so this is essentially a big character study and luckily a one-dimensional character in a Pixar film is pretty damn entertaining and hilarious. Jokes are shot out like a machine gun. It also helps that the voice cast is infectious. It should be said that a key character, named Bing Bong, is one Pixar’s greatest side characters ever and holy shit does he pack an emotional punch when you’re not even looking.
Pixar’s best films manage to showcase immense creativity but keep character and story first and the world they live in is molded by them. Where Inside Out falters is that it does the reverse of that. The characters are lost to the concepts and rules. But the film ultimately does push beyond those flaws because emotion is found everywhere in the latter half of the film as Joy yearns to make Riley happy again. And this is precisely what the film is about. It’s about the emotions and yearning for nostalgia that is lost. It’s a cathartic film for children and a photo book and reminder for adults.
Inside Out is a stream of vibrant ideas and symbols that’s loaded with jokes and eventually hits you with an explosion of emotion. It’s a film that’s FULL of great ideas that never quite come together to reach MASTERPIECE level which Pixar once hit at almost every at bat. I know it’s not fair to compare to the greats, but the fact that I do is a testament to how much fantastic stuff is actually in here. I have waited so long for Pixar to make me feel how I did when I watched their films as a kid. Despite it’s lopsidedness I STILL felt like crying and to that I must applaud Pixar because they have finally returned, and what better way to do it than a film that’s literally about childhood emotions. For a film meant for children the message actually hit me as profound and something I’d even forgotten. Inside Out reminds us that ALL emotions are important and necessary to growing up.