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Movie Review: Inside Out
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

Disney Pixar's INSIDE OUT movie review

Inside Out
Director: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
Screenwriters: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling
Walt Disney Pictures | Pixar
Rated PG | 94 Minutes
Release Date: June 19, 2015

Ever look at someone and wonder what’s going on inside their head? Directed by Pete Docter (Up, Monsters, Inc.) and Ronnie Del Carmen, Inside Out journeys into the mind to find out.

Based in Headquarters, the control center inside 11-year old Riley’s mind, the Emotions are hard at work. Joy (Amy Poehler) is a silly sprite whose mission is to make sure Riley stays happy. Fear (Bill Hader) keeps Riley safe, and Anger (Lewis Black) ensures all is fair. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) prevents Riley from getting poisoned and protects her from gross stuff like broccoli, while Sadness (Phyllis Smith) isn’t sure what her role in Riley’s life is – she tries to stay out of the way as much as possible.

When Riley’s family moves to a new city, the Emotions are on high alert. During the difficult transition, Joy and Sadness are sucked through a memory tube into the far reaches of Riley’s mind, taking her core memories with them. Fear, Anger, and Disgust are left in charge to navigate the rocky terrain of acclimating to a new place with new faces and make new, happy memories.

On their own, Joy and Sadness must venture into uncharted areas like Imagination Land, Abstract Thought, and Dream Productions, in their quest to reconnect Riley’s core memories and bring happiness back to her life.

Inside Out is a triumph in terms of creative and engaging storytelling. Emotions are hard to talk about – especially for children – but Inside Out simplifies the complexities of the mind by turning the brain into a giant office building. With hundreds of different departments staffed by thousands of workers, the brain is a factory for feelings – a storage facility for memories and personality traits that shape who we are.

The movie works as one big metaphor for chemical imbalance – what happens when the brain stops manufacturing Joy, and Sadness starts working overtime? When Sadness accidentally touches one of Riley’s core memories, she contaminates the joy-filled sphere with a blue streak of melancholy. Without Joy at the controls, Riley becomes despondent. She’s angry at her parents for uprooting her and no longer finds joy in her favorite activities. Her best friend back home has found a new pal, and with Sadness manipulating her memories, Riley’s goofball, fun-loving personality teeters on the edge of oblivion.

Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen have created a kind of visual vocabulary for expressing thoughts and feelings that are too complex (or too upsetting) for children to communicate. It’s a way of talking about sadness, loneliness, and anger in a sincere and imaginative way – and it accomplishes all of this while being immensely entertaining and visually dazzling.

Inside Out is Pixar’s best, most heartfelt work since 2008’s WALL-E. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith (NBC’s The Office) carry the film with fantastic voice performances, while Black, Kaling, and Hader play exaggerated versions of their public personas. Disgust sounds like a valley girl. Fear is a frantic fast-talker and master of crazy voices. And Black is a hothead, prone to extreme mood swings and lots of shouting. There are also a handful of fun cameos like Paula Poundstone, Bobby Moynihan, Frank Oz, and Richard Kind (A Bug’s Life), who gives a delightful performance as Bing Bong, Riley’s long-dormant imaginary friend.

Pixar’s output has been hit-or-miss in recent years. I loved Toy Story 3 but was underwhelmed by Brave. I found Cars 2 disappointing on nearly every level, yet enjoyed Monsters University. Inside Out, however, is at the same level of quality as Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up. It’s original, inventive, and it packs an emotional punch. It’s everything you want out of a great movie – and it’s one of the best of the summer!


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