Inside Out, the latest release from Pixar, is a sensate delight.
STORYLINE: Eleven-year-old Riley is transplanted from her idyllic Midwestern home to chaotic San Francisco. Her loving mom and dad try to help her deal with her prepubescent emotions; Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and (her most important emotion) Joy. But these are far from abstract emotions. They are personified as characters who disagree on how to deal with Riley’s dramatic change. This tension creates even more problems up in Headquarters, the central living area shared by the aforementioned emotions.
MORAL PREMISE: forcing joy into all of life’s situations will result in disappointment and frustration, but allowing room for sadness can lead to deeper joy.
MY TAKE: I’ll watch anything Peter Docter directs, and/or writes. In addition to his screenplay for Inside Out, and Up!, Docter has distinguished himself with original story credits on Toy Story (1 & 2), Monsters, Inc., WALL-E, Up!, and the forthcoming Toy Story 4. He never gets on a soapbox, never pontificates. Rather, he lets his characters discover the consequences of bad choices and the blessings of wise choices. The characters of Inside Out are so engaging, and the lessons learned are so rooted in truth, that we emerge with more than head knowledge regarding the wisdom of allowing room for sadness – we are moved, motivated to emulate the characters we have come to care for.
The actors do a great job. Thanks to Natalie Lyon and Kevin Reher for casting Amy Poehler (Joy) and Phyllis Smith (Sadness) as the two lead emotions. Both actors reveal nuanced vocal work that ably reflect those emotions. Their characters are rounded, that is, they have an arc, allowing for more variety and build in their interpretations. Casting Lewis Black as Anger was inspired – great performance. Mindy Kaling (Disgust) captures the edge and superiority with relish and without making us hate her, thanks largely to a great script. And Kaitlyn Dias as Riley does a masterful job of understating pre-teen angst without losing the volatility that accompanies her roiling emotions.
All the characters work together to complement the artistry of Dovi Anderson, Brendan Beasley and the rest of the animation crew, as well as a rich score that never intrudes (thanks, Peter Boyer, Ashley Chafin, et al), and a production design by Ralph Eggleston (Monsters, Inc., FernGully, The Last Rainforest, Up) that is one of the most imaginative and elegantly rendered of any animated feature that I’ve ever seen.
Any time Lauren and I turn to each other (multiple times) during the screening and say, “they are having so much fun!” I know we are witnessing something magical. That’s a word I seldom use, and more often than not, to describe a Pixar feature.
Here’s how it will make your life better:
1. It will encourage you to reconsider how better to deal with conflicting emotions in a high stress environment.
2. It will remind you that there really are families out there who put a premium on loving one another and helping one another through tough times.
3. It will entertain you in a wholesome way, that will leave you wanting to be a better person.
Go see Inside Out.