Animation Comedy

'Inside Out' Film Review: Pixar's latest is a roller coaster ride of emotions

June 19, 2015Ben MK

Joy. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Disgust. These aren't just random emotions. In Pixar's latest, they're the emotions that define who we are. They dictate our every move — and they do it all from "Headquarters," the central command center inside our heads.

Welcome to the world of Inside Out — quite possibly Pixar's most imaginative film to date — where memories are contained in colored orbs, information is forgotten by being tossed into a vast landfill called the "Memory Dump," and the various aspects of our personality are manifested as a series of "Personality Islands." It's also where you'll find the effervescent Joy (Amy Poehler), mopey Sadness (Phyllis Smith), easily-startled Fear (Bill Hader), hot-tempered Anger (Lewis Black) and casually indifferent Disgust (Mindy Kaling), colorful embodiments of the five emotions that co-exist inside the mind of Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias).

They've been with Riley since the day she was born. And in the eleven years since, this fab five have experienced all of her ups and downs right alongside her. Still, nothing can prepare them for the emotional roller coaster she'll embark on when her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) up and move her from their cozy Minnesota home to a cold and grey San Francisco apartment. Suddenly, Riley and her emotions are thrown for a loop; things start going haywire inside her mind; and soon Joy and Sadness find themselves plucked from Headquarters and marooned at the far end of the Memory Dump, leaving Riley emotionally unbalanced and not at all herself.

In true Pixar fashion, what follows is both hilariously entertaining and heartwarmingly endearing, as Joy and Sadness must restore Riley's personality by problem-solving their way through the labyrinthine passageways of her memory bank. It's a perilous journey that will have them visiting the far corners of Riley's psyche — from "Dream Productions," a studio backlot where nighttime fantasies are churned out like Hollywood productions, to "Imagination Land," an amusement park where the zaniest of thoughts comes to life — and meeting crazy characters like Bing Bong (Richard Kind), the imaginary friend Riley outgrew long ago, who's part elephant, all cotton candy and always willing to lend a helping hand.

It sounds almost too sweet to bear. But even though Inside Out can sometimes appear too cute and cartoonishly exaggerated for its own good, it nonetheless feels like classic Pixar through and through, building on themes and motifs that have found their way into many a film of theirs before this.

In other words, there's plenty here that will delight younger viewers, who will revel in the cornucopia of candy-colored environments and endlessly comical encounters. But more mature moviegoers will also appreciate the nuance with which writer/director Pete Docter, co-director Ronnie del Carmen and screenwriters Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley have crafted the story, underpinning it with genuine emotion and brilliantly sly psychological metaphors, all culminating in what is ultimately a poignant life lesson about growing up and discovering where we belong.

It all adds up to one of the most strikingly unique film experiences of the year, marking a definite return to form for the legendary animation studio. Though you could say Pixar have been painting themselves into a creative corner as of late — coasting comfortably on the popularity of sequels like Cars 2, Monsters University and Toy Story 3 — no longer is that the case. Inside Out is as touching as it is visionary. And as far as emotions are concerned, it will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

Inside Out releases June 19th, 2015 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for mild thematic elements and some action. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 34 Mins.

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