While not quite at the heights of Pixar’s best, Inside Out is still a return to form for the recently declined animation giant.
Inside Out (2015) is an animated adventure comedy from Pixar, directed by Pete Doctor and Ronnie Del Carmen. It stars Amy Poehler as the literal embodiment of the emotion Joy in the head of 12 year old girl Riley (Kaitlyn Dias). Joined by the other emotions Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and the self-deprecating Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Joy must attempt to help Riley stay positive and adjust during her move to San Francisco.
Just like the best Pixar films, the premise here is brilliant. Imaginative, whimsical, and yet still based on (scant) psychology, Riley’s head is a fascinating wonderland of clever imagery and wonderful artistry. While the idea of visualising the internal mind is not particularly new, its never been realised with Pixar’s trademarked charm and wonder, with clever ideas ranging from Riley’s daily train of thought to her long term memory (and others that I won’t spoil. The visual landscape presented here is just damn incredible.
Its bolstered by an equally strong presentation. As par the course for Pixar, the animation is the best achievable today, and it is in full display throughout Inside Out. Rich colour, detail and expressive character designs are particular standouts, but overall the animation is (to be expected) simply stellar. The score is also worth mentioning, as its good. Very good. From Pixar alum Michael Giacchino, the score has immense impact on the overall rhythm of the film, as well as bolstering the emotional impact of particular scenes. I’d prefer not to stretch and say its one of his best (simply because of how good his work is), but it is impressive work that complements the film perfectly.
Speaking of emotional scenes, its unsurprising that a film literally about emotions would elicit a few tears, and Inside Out delivers. Touching, and easy to relate to for anyone who ever had a childhood, Pixar may not tug on our heartstrings here as strongly as in Up or Finding Nemo, but it still crafts several key scenes specifically designed to remove all dry eyes in the cinema. Bolstered by these moments is a really touching and intelligent message for kids. Like this year’s Zootopia, there’s a very mature theme at Inside Out‘s core young and old can take to heart.
The voice acting is exceptionally solid as well. The main duo of Joy and Sadness are both spot-on in capturing the contrasting enthusiasm and depression of the two characters. The rest of the main cast, while not particularly three dimensional characters (as they all literally embody one emotion), all make a solid impression as well. The voice acting for Riley and her parents, while nowhere near as memorable as Riley’s emotions, are all good enough to not detract from the overall film.The standout however has to be Richard Kind in a surprise role that I would prefer not to spoil. Just to know, Kind forms the emotional core of the film’s narrative (I’m proud of that one) and is the source of several of Inside Out‘s most powerful moments.
Inside Out is not, however, without its flaws. While its mindscape is imaginative, the film’s narrative often plays fast and loose with its established rules, making the plot clogs clack away in the background a bit too loudly. Often it feels like unprecedented events occur simply to funnel the characters from one moment to another without regard for how it makes sense in the plot. However, my biggest issue with the movie is the humour. Unlike the mature themes of the film, much of the humour seems to skew quite young with plenty of slapstick and cheesy moments, which is fine if it didn’t make anyone over the age of 15 cringe at every second joke. Basically, the humour is hit-and-miss, and while the few adults jokes thrown in there are great, the film would have benefited much more from toning down the slapstick in favour of some more mature fare. Pixar should, and often does, appeal to both kids and adults but very frequently that balance seems off in Inside Out which is a real shame and could possibly be a buffer for a solid percentage of people aged over 15 from enjoying what is a very good and imaginative movie.
But aside from those two gripes, Inside Out is the best thing Pixar has made since Toy Story 3. It may not be one of their best overall, but is by far the best animated film of 2015, and likely to be remembered when as the movie which inspired hope that Pixar may one day return to its peak.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended