Starring: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black
Directed by: Pete Docter (“Up”) and Rolando Del Carmen (debut)
Written by: Pete Docter (“Up”), Meg LeFauve (debut) and Josh Cooley (debut)
In its most thematically rich film of the last few years, Pixar Animation Studios returns to form with “Inside Out,” a lively and heartfelt movie that proves the studio probably workshops much bigger ideas than casting Larry the Cable Guy as a rusty old pick up. While “Inside Out” might be a bit too complex narratively for the youngest of moviegoers (“Eternal Sunshine” for kindergarteners, perhaps?), there is still enough silliness mixed with the more serious issues to push this Pixar project ahead of schlock like “Cars” or overrated Oscar winners like “Brave.”
In “Inside Out,” Pixar veteran director/writer Pete Docter (“Up”) and newbie screenwriters Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley dive deep into the thoughts and emotions of a child by bringing each of these emotions to life through a cast of colorful characters. They may not be as memorable as those in the “Toy Story” franchise, but Pixar does a great job in “Inside Out” casting the voices of the five lead roles – Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). By anthropomorphizing each emotion, “Inside Out” cleverly attempts to explain just how a child’s mind functions without getting too caught up in the psychological intricacies.
Here, we follow a young girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who is uprooted by her parents and moved to San Francisco when her father gets new job. Depressed about having to leave all her friends behind, we watch from the inside of Riley’s head as she comes to terms with her new life and how her five main emotions (joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust) control her mood and personality in her new environment. When Joy and Sadness are accidentally lost inside Riley’s subconscious, the two emotions must find their way back to the “Control Room” where they can help Riley manage her feelings. Along the way, they must confront Riley’s memories, some of which are fading as she transforms from little girl to young lady.
Much like “Toy Story” and the idea that all childish things must be put away once we reach a certain age, “Inside Out” captures that same kind of emotion that will give older kids the chance to think about the way they react to certain things in their own lives. There is a message here about how emotion isn’t monotone that is important for moviegoers of all ages. It’s nice to see Pixar finding that sweet spot between entertainment and inspiration again.