More Pixar brilliance–
Disney’s Pixar studio has a history of turning the animation genre on its head and delivering films that entertain both on simple enough levels of fun and frolic for children to enjoy while also stimulating adults with more sophisticated emotional appeals. But the idea of an entire animated family film based on metacognition—thinking about how we think? Even for Pixar that’s a pretty ambitious gamble.
That risk pays off unequivocally with “Inside Out,” a film so brilliant the only real concern Pixar faces is being able to top itself. The studio has again set the bar so high that continuing to deliver films of such superlative quality is indeed a daunting challenge.
Though not officially acknowledged by Disney, “Inside Out” appears loosely inspired by an attraction that ran at Epcot Center at Walt Disney World for 18 years called “Cranium Command,” where a young audio-animatronic boy sat in a real 12-year-old boy’s head and piloted various organs (brain, stomach, bladder, heart, etc.) through the tumultuous events of an average day.
With “Inside Out,” director and co-writer Pete Doctor (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up,” the “Toy Story” series) further cements status as a genius filmmaker. Doctor and a team of writers (including co-director Ronaldo Del Carmen) have concocted a story focused around five primary emotions fighting for influence in the mind of Riley, an 11-year old girl (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias).
The five emotions and their superbly, perfectly chosen voices are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (comedian Lewis Black). All have access to Riley’s main control board and react in their idiosyncratic ways—to relentless comedic effect—while trying to ensure her “core memories,” which can’t change, remain positive. Naturally, the cheerleader of the team is Joy, who has been with Riley since birth and tries to keep the other emotions in check as they surface during the girl’s development. Things go along swimmingly until Riley’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco and the prepubescent girl must deal with a host of complicated emotions.
As Riley’s parents (Kyle MacLachlan, Diane Lane) try to help her through this transition, older happy memories become jeopardized by the anxiety of new surroundings and unfamiliar people. In one particularly hilarious dinner scene involving the whole family, the differences in male and female emotions are vividly and, neurologically speaking, accurately examined.
With its 15th feature film, Pixar, the brainiest of studios, continues to challenge its audience to contemplate the deeper meaning of life and the myriad emotions we experience every day. While the visuals are as colorful and vibrant as anything Disney has produced, this is serious material for younger children (under age 8 or so) who may lose interest as the story delves into darker territory.
But for everyone else the concepts on display here will likely elicit profound reactions. When was the last time a movie caused you to ponder the power of sadness? It’s heady stuff.
If the first 10 minutes of “Up” and the last ten minutes of “Toy Story 3” struck an emotional chord with you, brace yourself for “Inside Out,” a singularly satisfying adventure that will likely cause you to tear up while tearing you up inside in the gloriously fulfilling way that only Pixar can.
Rated PG (for mild thematic elements and some action).