It’s important to call Inside Out by it’s full title; Pixar’s Inside Out. Because rarely, if ever, has their been a brand name in film that is so synonymous with quality. Some could argue Marvel but they’re still new to the game and superheroes aren’t for everyone. Pixar on the other hand is. It’s hard to imagine anyone not finding something to adore about at least one, and likely more, Pixar films. So after their relative absence from cinema, their last original film being 2012’s Brave, Inside Out is a welcome return to the summer listings and one that has a universal appeal.
Set predominantly in the mind of 11 year-old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) we follow her as she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her mum and dad. As she moves we see the world through the emotions in her mind. Normally in here Joy (Amy Poehler) runs the show while Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) chip in from time to time, all of them hoping Sadness (Phyllis Smith) keeps to herself. But the move is proving tough on Riley and she soon finds her memories of happiness turning to sadness as she pines for home. In a desperate attempt to set things right Joy and Sadness find themselves trapped outside Riley’s emotional HQ and unless they get back things are going to go from bad to full-on emotional breakdown.
With echoes of Pixar’s finest work the Toy Story franchise reminiscent in the set-up; key character ruling the roost and soon discovering that sometimes things have to change, Inside Out is one of Pixar’s finest films. In fact you could dispense with the Pixar in this instance, it’s one of cinema’s finest films.
The vibrant colours, cartoonish characters and script that never stops delivering brilliant, laugh-out-loud gags, will appeal to audiences both young and old. But, as with much of Pixar’s work, there is so much more going on beneath the surface. Inside Out is easily their most creative and insightful work. And that’s saying something given the high caliber of films they have produced over the years.
Because while the story is always captivating what makes it even more so is its ability to make you think, analyze and ultimately take a form of therapy from the themes that are on offer. So powerful is the idea that sometimes ‘core memories’ are formed by sad experiences and that they allow us to grow and become better for them that Inside Out will surely become a treatment for those struggling with emotional upheaval. In their darkest hour Riley and Joy cannot see the woods for the trees, the world a dark and depressing place with nothing that joyful thoughts can do to alter. Indeed the film culminates in a scene so devastatingly heartbreaking it will bring a lump in the throat and a tear to the eye to even the most hardened and cynical of viewers.
Of course this being an animation (was it mentioned it’s from Pixar) the film is never doom and gloom. Instead you’re taken in to Riley’s emotional thought process, and in doing so your own, where memories, trains of thoughts, dreams and your subconscious all play a key, and always incredibly smart and funny role in how we perceive the world and our position in it.
As you would expect the vocal talent on offer is all of the highest order. Hader, Kaling and Black, forming the Fear, Disgust and Anger part of the emotions are always brilliantly entertaining, their conflicting characteristics bouncing off each other with such regularity you know there isn’t just a sequel to this idea but a franchise (stick around during the closing credits to see the endless possibilities it has to offer). Richard Kind is wonderfully bubbly and surreal as Riley’s nearly forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong. Smith brings a both hysterical and heartbreaking delivery to Sadness as to make you want to hug her and kick her at the same time. Meanwhile Amy Poehler carries the film as Joy, even in the darkest recesses of Riley’s mind her boundless energy lifting you to the point of never giving up hope.
Frozen may have the kids baying for more but that Disney princess stuff is so old school. Pixar remain the king of this medium, Inside Out is a staggering achievement that uses emotions to tap subversively and often subconsciously into a universal thought process.