If a film could be described as “typically Pixar,” Inside Out could well be it. For twenty years the studio has surprised and delighted audiences with genius storytelling, evocative characterisation, dazzling computer animation and bittersweet emotion. Their fifteenth feature release displays all the hallmarks of their most golden tales, returning to the familiar territory of the pain of growing up whilst exploring new terrain; inside the human mind itself.
11-year-old girl Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is controlled by the emotions in her head, Joy (Amy Poehler,) Fear (Bill Hader,) Anger (Lewis Black,) Disgust (Mindy Kaling,) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith.) When her family moves from their Minnesota home to a new life in San Francisco, Riley struggles to adjust, throwing Headquarters into chaos. With Riley’s very personality at stake, Joy, Sadness and the rest must work together to restore balance before it is too late.
Pete Docter’s third directorial outing combines the imagination of Monsters, Inc. with emotional heft of Up. The story doesn’t reinvent the wheel, incorporating many recurring elements from the Pixar back catalogue (anthropomorphised aspects of childhood, mismatched buddies trying to get home etc) If this sounds like a criticism, it isn’t; if they do have a formula, it works. Their gift is in tapping into universal experiences and sentiments in a creative and heart-warming way. Inside Out is no exception, and should also finally put to bed the absurd criticism of the studio’s paucity of female characters. Riley’s emotional turmoil and growing pains are deeply affecting and beautifully realised. Pixar know kids, but more importantly, they know people.
Inside Out’s voice cast has been brilliantly selected. Amy Poehler is a perfect choice for Joy, her boundless energy and positivity radiating from every line. The contrast between her vocal enthusiasm and the dolorous Phyllis Smith as Sadness reap rich comic dividends, whilst Lewis Black gets most of the best lines as the explosive Anger. But it is Pixar staple Richard Kind who steals the heart as a character wisely hidden from the film’s marketing. His role, while at first glance purely whimsical, proves pivotal, encapsulating the painful loss of imagination accompanying the death of childhood innocence. His heart-breaking heroism will find most cinemagoers experiencing something in their eye.
The character design and animation are impeccable, with each emotion given distinctive shape and movement. The bright colours of Headquarters and the internal world clash nicely with Riley’s muted reality. The approximation of handheld camerawork and optical lenses demonstrates the unobtrusive technical sophistication synonymous with Pixar. The mechanics of memory, dreams and personality forming are rigorously considered and wittily realised, from the Train of Thought to the prison of the Subconscious, and an amusing detour through abstraction. Most animations are just polished; Pixar’s are smart.
Predictably lovely, full of emotion, bursting with Joy & weighed down with just enough Sadness, Inside Out is heartfelt, hilarious and wonderful. Typically Pixar, it’ll make you feel all the feelings.
Inside Out is in cinemas nationwide now