Review by Chris Olson
"Why am I so totes emosh?"
A visual and imaginative treat, Pixar deliver an original coming-of-age story that pulls the viewer apart from the Inside Out.
Disney films inherently yank at the heart strings, but this newest offering from the-studio-that-made-you-tear-up tackles a far broader spectrum of emotional turmoil, personifying our characteristics into charming, loveable and, yes, merchandisable characters. Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) take centre stage in the mind of 11 year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), like captains of the Starship Enterprise, operating her reaction to everyday life and hoping to create some pivotal core memories.
The conflict arrives when Riley is to start at a new school when her family uproots to California, and to make matters worse, her emotions are becoming unstable! Sadness threatens to overthrow the delicate balance of the brain, which Joy (the film's leading lady) attempts to avert only to find herself lost within Riley's long term memory. If Joy and Sadness can't find their way back, Riley's childhood happiness could be lost forever!
The clearly defined character limitations could have hampered Inside Out, and at times the emotions seen to trip over each other, but Pixar creates terrific arcs for these emotions that are compelling, allowing a more thoughtful and inspiring process to take place. Deeper levels of thought are encouraged as this language of emotions is presented to the viewer, making the abstract not only watchable, but mesmerising. Ambitious filmmaking combined with ambitious storytelling.
The narrative is so intelligent and thought provoking, that the simplicity of animation is the only effective medium which could be used, allowing a sophisticated yet accessible journey to unfold. The "ordinariness" of Riley and her predicament, tied in with the coming of age trope, puts Pixar on firm footing. After several years of talking cars, talking planes, and talking monsters, a high concept idea of talking emotions seems not only less surreal but also more adventurous.
There is a frenetic vibrancy about the colours, score and overall aesthetic of Inside Out that is entrancing, with fantastic performances across the board. Special mention must be given to Poehler, who is enigmatic. Imaginative devices are brought in that enhance the story (such as a literal Train of Thought or memory workers who dispose of old memories to make space, and yet still retain that annoying ad jingle stuck in your head), and creativity shines through the tremendous space that is Riley's mind.
Few films are able to deliver across all of the areas that Inside Out does, and even fewer are able to do it in a way that is so emotionally affecting. Criticism has come that the movie is a downer for a Disney film - and to those people they may need to consider the movie's intention. All our emotions are important, the pursuit of Joy cannot come at the expense of other feelings because it will discourage personal growth. Sadness, whilst like an emo Smurf, is a vital part of Riley, and not something to be pushed into the depths of forgotten memories.
The film does slip into a few blurry areas, as some of the emotions seen to suffer from their own personal conflicts rather than being a clearly defined aspect of Riley, but overall they are brilliantly crafted creations from a studio-that-defined-your-childhood who is still defining cinematic brilliance.