Inside Out, 2015.
Directed by Pete Docter.
Starring Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, and Kyle MacLachlan
After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.
Moving away from monsters, toys and old-aged pensioners, Pixar’s 15th feature delves into something even larger namely the mind of a young girl, Riley. Uprooted at the age of 11 from Minnesota to move to San Francisco, her life is turned “inside out”, taking her away from her friends and her hobbies. Such thunderous events can reek havoc on the minds of the best of us, but what of that of a young girl who is still discovering about the world, still soaking up information and surroundings like a sponge, free from the burdens of what puberty, adulthood and responsibilities? The answer is Inside Out, a trip into the deep recesses of the human hat-rack where our emotions are in the hands of desk clerks.
Beginning with the joyous occasion of a new life being brought into the world, we are transported inside the mind of the newly arrived Riley. Darkness fills the as-yet fully-formed think-tank before a colourful burst of light in Joy (Amy Poehler) is formed, who takes the wheel. As Riley grows, so do her feelings, brought to effervescent life in the form of Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) who become said clerks. A dull concept on paper, but in the hands of those geniuses as Pixar, and in particular here director Pete Docter, it is so much more.
Every inch of the film is of wondrous creation, Pixar out-doing themselves visually once more with another thoughtful world of colourful characters and dreamy places, piercing with the vibrancy and charm that has become their staple through film after film with no sense of waning. It’s impossible not to be swept up in their fanciful and intoxicating creations, and Inside Out is no different as we expand our horizons through the mesmeric maze of the human mind.
Memories are stored in a gigantic, never-ending library of our contrasting emotions; theme-parks created to represent all of those things we hold most dear (family, friends, passions); mini-worlds exist to form every facet of the human existence with dreams, fears, anxieties and imaginary friends (Richard Kind’s Bing Bong is a master-stroke); and those forgotten memories fall into a never-ending pit with no chance of being remembered, no matter how much we try. It’s an capacious, sweeping world that sounds far-reaching but in the hands of such skilled storytellers, it’s rich, touching and exhilarating throughout.
Pixar’s ability to take you on these adventures through the realms of their never-ending imagination is one thing, but to measure it with real emotions that make you laugh and cry and, well, feel are again at their very best. Director Pete Docter once again proves his substantial worth to the Pixar machine, and as with Up he beautifully measures the affection with the adventure to pull the heartstrings while still enjoying many a flight-of-fancy, delivering an even better dose of glorious animation that Disney’s own Big Hero 6. He can also call upon the effervescent energies of Poehler, Hader and Black who only add to the smorgasbord of goodness running through the veins of the film, but it’s The Office’s Phyllis Smith who steals the show as Sadness, pitch-perfect throughout. It’s another stellar Pixar cast, carefully plucked from the various pockets of Hollywood (this time it’s the NBC factor) that while not the biggest or most obvious choices, it’s hard to ever think of anyone better.
There is such a broad spectrum of ideas here that it’s almost impossible to soak them all in on just one viewing, such is the scope and scale of the imagination beyond the walls of the mind. In fact, Inside Out may well be their Christopher Nolan-version of their own films: impenetrable on some levels (for the young and old), its lofty concepts particularly those concerned with souls, spirits and trains of thought (very literal on the latter) are sometimes more akin to those in Inception that a simple “toy story”. That said, the visuals and magnificent colour on show will be enough to keep the tots quiet through the heat of summer.
It’s always difficult in a series of films such as Pixar’s to know where each film will place in the best-of list, and it’s a similarly tricky task when trying to add Inside Out into the mix. That said, this is easily one of their most daring but most gratifying: thoughtful, exciting and earnest, it’s a triumph for all involved and will only get better with repeat viewings such are the ideas on show here. In the Pixar list, Inside Out easily sit alongside those in the top echelons of their formidable line-up that just keeps surprising.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★