Sunday, June 21, 2015

Review: Inside Out

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.
It's fitting that Pixar's latest film, "Inside Out," contains a character named Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler) because the film is just that to behold. Not only is the picture one of the animation studio's finest, but it's also one of the best films this year so far.

The picture, which is directed by Pete Docter ("Up"), follows the story of a young girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) and her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan), who pick up and move from their home in Minnesota to San Francisco. Much like the best films in Pixar's cannon, "Inside Out" blends humor and joy with sadness and much of the story revolves around how Riley attempts to fit in to her new surroundings.

At this point, I should probably mention that Riley and her parents only have a bit of screen time and that the majority of the film is set within the young girl's head, the lead characters being her emotions - Joy, Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Riley's childhood imaginary friend, Mr. Bing Bong (Richard Kind).

As for plot mechanics, Joy and Sadness accidentally get sucked out of the control room from which they control Riley's emotions and attempt, along with the help of Bing Bong, to find their way back. And through this plot device, "Inside Out" does a wonderful job of creating the emotional roller coaster involved in a young child's move to a new place, leaving behind past memories, friends and familiarity.

It's the type of film where you'll occasionally feel a lump rising in your throat, but not due to the maudlin tugging of heart strings that you'd expect from any number of Hollywood films, but rather because the notes the film strikes ring true and have a genuine emotional impact.

But "Inside Out" is also one of Pixar's funniest movies as of late and there are a series of sequences in which we get to view the control rooms of all the other human (and, on two occasions, nonhuman) characters. And one of the things I love about Pixar movies is that although it's obvious that children are the core audience, there's plenty there for adults as well. Hell, this film even has a "Chinatown" reference.

In the mid to late 2000s, Pixar was the king of the mountain for animated films, offering up such classics as "Wall-E," "Ratatouille" and "Up," all of which rank up there with the best Disney classics. In the early part of this decade, the studio started focusing more on sequels and although they have all been good to varying degrees, it seemed that the studio was easing off completely original content. If you look at Pixar's upcoming roster, it is primarily sequels.

"Inside Out" proves that the studio can still come up with something truly original, emotionally satisfying and appealing to all ages. Here's to hoping that "Inside Out" is not the last of the studio's attempts to be bold. It's a wonderful movie.

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