Directed by Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black
With the move to San Francisco, 11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is facing the biggest challenge of her young life. It is up to the interior workings of her mind to face this huge upheaval, a world controlled by five emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. When Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) are accidentally thrown out of headquarters, along with the precious core memories that create Riley’s personality, they must find a way through the vast architecture of her mind to return home. Meanwhile the other three must guide the now emotionally vacant Riley through a new city, a new school, and the growing rift between her and her parents.
There is a wondrous mental landscape on display here. Despite the strangeness of the proposition and the fantastic insanity of the locations on display (a movie dream factory, a back-lot of daydreams, a literal train of thought), there is an internal logical consistency here. Inside Out is a smart film; from its concept, its plot, its themes, its locations, the characters that populates them, and their designs – everything rings of quality and care. All meld together here to produce something that seems effortlessly great and emotionally resonant.
Perhaps that is the trick with Inside Out, that despite the obvious budget and the gazillion man-hours placed into the CG, it just feels so intensely personal. The experiences on display on the outside world (and there consequences in the constructed interior) touch on experiences that many of us have shared, if not specifically then at least in the general. It is getting the audience to embrace those universal experiences that the best Pixar films do so very well. For Inside Out it is about looking for balance, of recognising that good and bad can coexist in a moment, and how feeling those emotions (be they negative or positive) can encourage emotional growth.
A lot of this rests on the Amy Poehler-voiced Joy. Looking like an overjoyed Tinkerbell on a sugar high, she is the whirlwind of positivity that organises things within Riley’s mind. It his her slow understanding of what lengths she will go to achieve this and its effects on others that drives the gradual change, and Poehler is perfectly cast for this. The counterpoint to Joy is Phyllis Smith’s Sadness. Tentative, melancholic, and darkly funny, Smith conveys this with a sense of quiet resignation. It is this interplay that shapes many of the most important sequences in Inside Out.
Intelligent, emotional, and (most surprising of all) emotionally intelligent, Inside Out is worthy of its place amongst other high quality Pixar releases. A genuine Joy to watch.