This is probably Pixar’s best film and that’s going some. But here they take on the daunting task of visualising many of the key aspects of human psychology. Rather than distracting from the plot, the science is a part of the story as the film graphically illustrates human psychology. Yet ‘Inside Out’ has all the plot and (nearly) all the character appeal we have come to expect of Pixar. The main character is very homesick after having seen transplanted to a new city. With a Woody-Allen-like visualisation we see what is going on in her head and many aspects of human psychology. If you get tired of the ideas whizzing around you, then just sit back and enjoy it as a pretty good Pixar animated comedy, both fun and intellectually challenging. The writing and directing team of Peter Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have turned out a winner.
Rating: +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10.
In 1966, the film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ took its audience on an incredible ride into the human body. In 1982, there was ‘Tron’, which was set in a world inspired by the internal workings of a computer. Now we have ‘Inside Out’. It features a journey into a world based on the psychology and workings of the human mind.
Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) has had a sort of idyllic existence in the only place she has ever lived, Minnesota. She has an ideal childhood. But then Riley reacts when her father has to move his family to San Francisco for his business. There is nothing about this new city that Riley likes. She desperately wants to return to Minnesota. Inside her mind, there is a parallel world called the Headquarters and presided over by her emotions. The emotions are more or less anthropomorphic and are representations of Riley’s feelings. There is Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling).
These emotions control Riley and her actions. They are the guardians of Riley’s memories, represented by bowling-ball-sized spheres. So how does that work, having tangible images of abstract ideas? Well, for example, there is a basket of blocks labelled ‘facts’ and another of opinions. The baskets get knocked over leaving a pile of facts and opinions on the floor. The person who spilled them tries to sort them, but is assured that most people cannot tell the difference anyway.
A viewer with knowledge of psychology will appreciate the metaphorical characters and locations. You may already know what distinguishes core memories from other memories, but you can still see what they are. If the viewer is a child or just tired of decoding the metaphorical meanings of the plot, he can always turn off his mind and just watch the animated comedy. This film’s target audience has the breadth of that of Lewis Carroll’s stories.
To be entertaining of such a wide audience is no small feat. One can readily tell that the script was a labour of love, a fun comedy that, if it has a fault, it is that the viewer cannot keep up with the fast-paced film and is so rare these days, the situation of the characters runs a full gamut of emotions. This was an extremely ambitious production and it pays off well.
Pixar’s most recent films, going back to ‘Cars 2’, have been disappointments. As of ‘Inside Out’, they are back in true form. In fact, this film is more intelligent than they ever have been in the past. This is the kind of film you almost need to get on video. You will want to back it up and see interesting touches again and again. There will always be more so see and my guess is that you will see more every time you see the film you will notice a lot you have not noticed before. I rate ‘Inside Out’ a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10. As is the custom with Pixar films ‘Inside Out’ is paired with a short animated film, in this case ‘Lava’, in which two volcanoes fall in love.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2015