Classic Movie Review: Inside Out (2015)

Posted: July 11, 2015 in Animation, Comedy, Drama
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Riley (Kaitlin Dias) is 11 years old, and a happy tween girl living in Minnesota, she has loving parents, close friends, and loves to ice skate and play ice hockey.  The emotion of Joy (Amy Pohler) is firmly in control of Riley’s life.  But a move to San Francisco causes the emotions of Joy and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to accidentally fall from the headquarters, leaving the emotions of Fear (Bill Hader) Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) now in control of Riley’s emotional well-being. It’s a long trip from the long term memory back to the headquarters, and Riley’s family, friendship, and recreational “parks”, places were her memories are kept, are slowly deteriorating.  Fortunately, Joy and Sadness find help from an imaginary friend of Riley’s, named Bing Bong (Richard Kind) who knows a shortcut to headquarters. Unfortunately, Anger has planted an idea in Riley’s mind to run away from San Francisco back to Minnesota.  Can Joy and Sadness get back to headquarters before Riley acts on Anger’s idea?

I love animated films, but oddly, I knew very little about this one when it came out. To say that Inside Out is an ambitious movie is a vast understatement.  It is perhaps the first movie to explain the emotional upheaval of a child moving to a new town in such a clear and cogent way. It is no less than an animated allegory, as Riley becomes more withdrawn and despondent, structures literally fall apart in Riley’s psyche.I don’t want to overstate this but the journey of Joy and Sadness seems almost like an Epic journey like the Odyssey and Iliad. Animation seems to be the best medium for such an emotional exploration, because emotions can be more easily illustrated using animation, than any other medium.  It’s a very dark movie at times, kids will not understand or enjoy the darker aspects of this movie, but they are necessary.  The dark moments give Riley’s character a full dramatic arc, much fuller than many live action films I’ve seen. It reminded me of George Bailey after no one recognizes him in It’s a Wonderful Life or Dorothy going  down the Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz.  In Inside Out there is an emotional jolt that was unexpected, and Sadness and Joy have to work together to get back to where they were before, which makes sense, Riley never got to express how she felt about the move, and so it had to come out through sadness sooner or later.  This is as good a movie as I’ve seen in a very long time, animated or otherwise. Adults will enjoy this movie, because this is an adult’s movie disguised as a kid’s film.

The acting is superb, led by Amy Pohler as Joy, she carries large parts of this movie. Her joy is infectious as is her energy, all expressed through her voice.  Equally important was the performance of Phyllis Smith as Sadness, the two performers balanced each other well.  It’s difficult to play a character who’s sad all the time, so I give Smith a lot of credit for giving a difficult role a lot of depth. She is a veteran of The Office.  Anger comes easily to Lewis Black a very funny stand-up comedian, and former regular of the Daily Show.  Hader is a veteran of Saturday Night Live and Kaling is known for the Office as well as her own show, the Mindy Kaling Project.  All have exquisite comedic timing and can handle the dramatic portions of the script as well.  Another tv veteran Richard Kind, almost steals the entire movie.

Director Pete Docter keeps the movie moving at a good pace, and gets wonderful performances from a veteran cast, not too difficult.  He also wrote and directed Up, one of my favorite Pixar movies.

If that is not enough, there is adorable short called Lava before Inside out.  It has superb animation, a touching story, and even a cute song.  Lava was a great appetizer for a terrific main course.

I implore you to see this movie.  You don’t want to see another Hollywood sequel do you?

Inside Out:  Inside your mind and Out of this world.


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