Dir: Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
When little Riley opens her eyes for the first time, the first emotion that pops into her head isn’t, as you might imagine, panic, or confusion. It is Joy. Joy is soon joined by Disgust, Fear, Anger and Sadness. In the world of Inside Out, and in true Pixar fashion, these emotions are manifested and turned into fuzzy little characters, who help Riley navigate the trials of childhood. As any Beano reader knows, the idea of having little characters in your head controlling you isn’t new. Still, this is a Pixar movie, with all the innovation and refinement the studio is known for. After a short run of underwhelming efforts, Inside Out is Pixar’s best film in years.
Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, is the most prevalent emotion in Riley’s 11-year-old existence. That changes when Dad’s new job forces the family to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, and Riley doesn’t take the change in circumstances very well. This is when Sadness (Phyllis Smith from the American Office) starts to become the dominant emotion, but Joy isn’t having any of it, and keeps pushing Sadness out of the picture. After an accident in the Headquarters where the main emotions work, Joy and Sadness become stranded in the deeper recesses of Riley’s brain, along with Riley’s core memories, represented as glowing globes that contain her fondest recollections. This leaves only Anger, Disgust and Fear at the helm during a time of major upheaval in a (white, middle class American) girl’s life.
The above is a clumsy way of recapping what is quite a complex and poignant story, although the plot never feels heavy-handed as you watch it. As with Monsters Inc, another film directed by Pixar VIP Pete Docter, so much thought has gone into this bizarre world. It all makes sense in a way anyone can understand. If anything, this version of how the mind works is highly appealing. The emotions go about their job as if it’s another day at the office.
When things go wrong, though, it feels very real. When depression strikes in real life, it can feel like certain emotions just disappear, hiding out where you can’t access them. Inside Out takes this idea, wraps a story around it, and places it into a kid’s film. Kids will enjoy the brightness and inventiveness of Inside Out. Adults will respond to the universality of these emotions, and the perfect metaphors for how emotions rule our lives.
In other words, bring hankies. If you thought the first ten minutes of Up were bad, oh boy…
It’s hilarious too, though. Pixar don’t get quite enough credit for the humour in their films. They are often masterclasses in comic timing, and Inside Out may the the funniest yet. The laughs hit hard, as much as the melancholy.