Inside Out (2015) Review
Let’s retrace the steps for the day. Woke up out of bed for work Disgust. Had to feed the dog and he got dirt on my pants Anger. But then he licked my face as I was brushing it off Joy. I got into the car and thought about how my engine died Sadness. The car jerked coming out the driveway and almost hit a lampost Fear. Then the car got back on track and went really fast Joy. The sharp turn around the corner was like that time I went go-karting Joy. Then I realized how late I was for work Anger. Finally got to work and I was behind on an assignment. Maybe I’ll get fired Fear. If I get fired I won’t be able to do anything I planned to Fear. Maybe I’m just not good enough for those things Sadness. I hate this stupid job anyway Anger. Does anyone really like working here? Disgust. Not to mention the food. Utter disgust. Then again, it’s a living. Joy
That little ditty right there is ‘Inside Out’ in a nutshell. Except instead of chronicling the day of the slightly depressive 20 something, ‘Inside Out’ tells the tale of the much more marketable Riley. An 11-year-old girl with not a care in the world. Opening with the cardinal cinema sin of narration, ‘Inside Out’ begs the question, have you ever looked at a person and wondered “What is going on in their head”? This narration is even more invasive than you might’ve thought because it doesn’t just come from a voice in Riley’s head. It comes from a voice in the head of the voice in Riley’s head. That voice belongs to Joy, the happy emotion in Riley’s head. And in yours.
Joy is joined (ba dum tss), by fellow emotions Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. Together they coordinate how and when Riley reacts to certain stimuli from the control tower in Riley’s brain. Every emotional reaction someone gets is stored in a glowing orb of memory, each glowing the colour of the emotion that prevailed over that memory. As Riley is only 11 years old and comes from a stable upbringing, her reactions thus far have been mostly happy.
This, of course, is why Joy is our main character. However, when Riley’s dad gets a new job in sunny San Fran, Riley is forced to deal with something she had yet to encounter. Change. As Riley goes through this change, something happens within her where she’s unable to feel either joy or sadness. From then on, it’s a race against the clock until Riley loses herself completely and becomes the poster child for the “meh” revolution.
Basically, what you’re watching is a little girl who has just received the first major shock of her life and her inability to process it. What’s amazing in ‘Inside Out’ is just how damn clever it is. It’s not clever in the Joss Whedon sense, where the movie is made on the dialogue and character. That’s all well and good, but the real rarity is in something like ‘Inside Out’. This movie is so creative in its world building that by the last 10 minutes of the film there were still new ideas being thrown out.
Just as Pete Docter’s Full-length directorial debut, Monster’s Inc brought a whole new construct to the world of monster’s, ‘Inside Out’ has crafted an intricate tapestry of ingenuity. This is true of many Pixar films, but not too many in the last few years. In my view, a perfect Pixar film is like a great stand up routine. You watch because it’s clever, but also because it resonates completely. As soon as someone says “Oh well Francis the Lady Bug is constantly called a girl even though he’s male and so he’s a little pissed off” the audience will go “Well of course, that just makes sense”.
On top of the impeccable universe that ‘Inside Out’ presents, the film is anchored by its perfect cast. Perhaps that’s because no one in the cast is acting too far out of the comfort zone. This is fine, seeing as each one of them is playing a one-dimensional character which is the point. Lewis Black plays Anger and provides his signature raging old man. Mindy Kaling is as sassy as her Mindy Project persona. Phyllis Smith sounds as perfectly pathetic as her characters often do. Finally, Amy Poehler channels her Leslie Knope, the impossibly positive leader of a band of followers who are just as stubborn, just in a different form. Although this casting is spot on, I can’t help but want the ‘Inside Out’ movie made with the Parks and Rec cast. Surely Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson could’ve done a bit as anger. Slap on a fearful Tom Haverford with a disgust heavy April Ludgate and that’s a movie right there.
The characters in Riley’s head are one-note yes, and her parents pretty much play parents. However, Kaitlyn Dias was particularly impressive as Riley. As her reactions are at the mercy of the voices in her head that control her every move, many times Riley has to switch from sounding scared to sounding disgusted, to completely balls to the wall angry. Yes, the animation does help these transitions come across, but the performance by Dias sells it even more.
Richard Kind also appears in this film, marking his 5th Pixar performance. Kind is the type of person who belongs in the world of voice acting. Any live action role he gets is wasted because as soon as he opens his mouth he sounds as if he should have 4 fingers, purple skin, a yellow suit and a top hat. Some people are just natural cartoon characters.
When you’re not taken aback by ‘Inside Out’ and it’s creativity, you’ll be desperately trying to convince people how something really did get stuck in your eye. If not, you’re soulless and you should see a priest because your soul belongs to the devil. ‘Inside Out’ is the saddest Pixar film to date, because it doesn’t just have one moment of raw emotional turmoil, it has several. All the tear-jerky moments in other Pixar films don’t hold a candle to this film.
Even, Marlin being convinced Nemo has died, or Eve being convinced Wall-e has died, or Woody and friends being convinced they’re going to die, or Mr. Incredible afraid his family are gonna die after he was previously convinced they were dead, Carl’s wife actually dying. Goddamn Pixar, you’re a bunch of nihilists, aren’t you?
That being said, the only thing I can find outright wrong with ‘Inside Out’ is that its story is a little predictable, but that’s just coming from watching way too many movies. To me the story only had one place to go, most people I’ve spoken to didn’t have that problem at all. But even having thought that I still enjoyed the ride. When I go on a roller coaster I know that eventually, I’m gonna get really high up, and then I’m gonna fall really quickly. I know the basic structure of the ride I’m on but I still have a blast either way.
Like ‘Fury Road’ before it ‘Inside Out’ is another instant classic of 2015. It far and away exceeded my already high expectations and will surely stand the test of time. As I said before it’s a movie that feels as fresh as it does familiar. Aside from the world itself and its tear-inducing scenes, the film is simply beautiful. Every set piece in Riley’s head feels like a whimsical child’s notebook with a multi-million dollar budget. ‘Inside Out’ marks, a return to the Pixar of old and is another animation great.