Pixar may have outdone themselves conceptually with Inside Out–which isn’t necessarily a good thing. While I definitely appreciate its uniqueness, it’s quite heavy for a kids movie. Sure, your children will be into the bright colors and anthropomorphizing their feelings, but everything else will go WAY over their heads. In fact, I personally was feeling anxiety trying to comprehend its involved concepts. With such a deep premise, it leaves itself open for a lot of over-analysis. Sometimes simplicity is underrated.
Inside Out shows us inside 11-year-old Riley’s mind. Her emotions–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust–help her make decisions and act upon the world around her. The film takes a look inside a child’s mind and gives them the true benefit of the doubt.
The story begins at Riley’s birth when, in a control room inside her mind, the emotions are learning their role as her conscience. However, when Riley gets older and life starts to change, the emotions panic and have to learn a lot about themselves as well.
At the beginning I became claustrophobic inside the control room of Riley’s mind. But I do have to say that the anxiety of the first half was the worst part of this movie. The second half ventured outside the main headquarters and was much smoother. It played very much in line with Pixar’s finding-your-way-home modus operandi used in many of their films.
But the uneven narrative isn’t the only thing that doesn’t work well. While there are some similarities to Toy Story, the comparison doesn’t favor this film. The dialogue isn’t as finely tuned and some jokes fall flat. I grew tired of some of the puns. It’s not far enough separated from our world for the puns to feel creative enough.
Also, the characters aren’t as lovable. While you do have Joy (Amy Poehler), who is a happy-go-lucky caretaker of Riley, the nature of the others makes them more annoying. It’s not enough to say that I only like Joy, but that I don’t really like the other emotion characters either. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) feels like an unnecessary 5th character. They would have been better off with just four–Joy, Sadness, Anger, and Fear. Disgust is more of a hybrid emotion. If they’re going to have Disgust, why not also have Pride or Anxiety or Humbleness? But of course I’m more critical because it’s a Pixar film. If it were made by Blue Sky or Dreamworks I would have probably set the bar lower in the first place.
It’s awesome when we finally get to see the world outside of the control room. The mock-movie set where Riley’s dreams are produced is brilliant; along with the cellar of the subconscious, where all of her deepest fears get locked up. Another highlight is the presence of Riley’s former imaginary friend, Bing Bong, who cries candy.
Honestly I really do like the film though. It’s filled with great themes and messages for younger people. It teaches us that sometimes we have to look inside of ourselves for the answers. And without sadness we might not get to experience all of the joy.
What I find interesting is the depth expressed of a character who isn’t even seen a whole lot (Riley).
It’s refreshing to see a movie–especially an animated one–that’s not cliche in its premise. The second half of the film is better than most movies’ entire 3 act structure. I just wish that the first half of this one had been more enjoyable.
Like I said, I did like the film. It’s just that it may be at the bottom of my Pixar list with Cars 2–but that’s not a bad list to be on in the first place.