Inside Out (2015)

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One of the many mysteries of life is emotion, and the presence of a conscience in people. Inside Out is a much more fascinating exploration of these two abstract concepts than my Psychology 100 class was. Kaitlyn Dias voices Riley, an eleven-year-old girl who has just moved from Minnesota to San Francisco, much to her dismay. But the real stars of the show are her emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kahling), and Anger (Lewis Black). These emotions live in Riley’s headquarters, where Riley’s core memories are kept — memories (notably all happy ones) that create Riley’s “islands” of personalities. These islands and these core memories are the essence of Riley; they define her. The emotions, with the bubbly Joy being in the lead, are responsible for Riley’s mental activity and the choices she makes. They also are responsible for processing memories, each memory having a definitive emotion attached to it. Before Riley’s family moves, Joy and the other emotions are proud of the fact that they’ve kept practically every memory happy. The only emotion bothered by this is Sadness, who begins touching memories and Riley’s thoughts, permanently turning them sad…and ruining everything, according to Joy. In an effort to keep Sadness from making a core memory into a blue experience, Joy and Sadness fall out of headquarters. Now, the two adverse emotions must make their way back to the headquarters with the help of Bing Bong (Richard Kind), the imaginary friend from Riley’s younger days.

Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), and Bing Bong (Kind) wander through Riley's long-term memory.

Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), and Bing Bong (Kind) wander through Riley’s long-term memory.

Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen (co-directors) invent a very unique story, one that appeals to children and adults. Kids are often mystified by what goes on in the minds of others, as are adults (despite whatever extensive knowledge we may have of cerebral activity). Docter and Del Carmen walk us through how traumatic events, such as moving to a strange place, can affect our emotions. In a particular scene from the film, Sadness is inexplicably drawn towards touching a memory and turning it sad. She can’t help this urge; just as people are helpless against feeling down sometimes. The film really does show how negative feelings are uncontrollable and inevitable, a concept that may be hard to grasp for younger viewers.

Inside Out is filled with bright, eye-catching colors; the characters are depicted perfectly. Special recognition is due to Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith, the two bringing out the differences in their contrasting emotions.  Joy is a golden-colored and energetic creature with a form reminding me of Tinker Bell. Poehler is perfect for this role, as she brings the bubbly can-do spirit that we all recognize from her character on Parks and Recreation. Sadness is depicted as a completely blue overweight figure. With her glasses and turtleneck sweater, Sadness is the image of the unpopular girl from middle school. Smith does a great job voicing Sadness, and brings out the emotion’s perpetual pessimism. Together, Poehler and Smith are a likable duo. Hader, Black, and Kahling are the fudge, whipped cream, and cherry atop this fudge sundae of a cast. The voice actors all perform wonderfully off of one another. Hats off to the casting director!

The emotions watch one of Riley's core memories.

The emotions watch one of Riley’s core memories.

The music in this film was great; however nothing revolutionary. The score comes from Michael Giacchino, who also did Up (2009). As he did for Up, Giacchino writes an endearing little musical motive that tugs on the heartstrings. I’m not sure that this score is destined for any awards, but it certainly was a great aspect of the film. Give the theme a listen!

I definitely enjoyed this movie, and I’ll even admit to shedding a couple of tears during it. I can only find one flaw: the hype surrounding the film got in the way. I walked into the movie theatre expecting to be stricken with awe and amazement at this new Pixar flick, with all the rave reviews it had been getting. As often happens when this is the case, the movie seemed to fall just short of my expectations. Despite this little speedbump, Inside Out is a creative film worth seeing, not to mention an instant Pixar classic.

See imdb page


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