Inside Out

June 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

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.

The Secret World of Arrietty

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi (debut), Gary Rydstrom (debut)
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”), Keiko Niwa (“Tales from Earthsea”), Karey Kirkpatrick (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”)

As impressive as computer-generated 3D animation has become in recent years, there is something still incredibly charming about hand-drawn animation. There are flaws, odd movements and static elements that all add to the experience and even inform the personality of the film. Perhaps nobody believes in hand-drawn animation more than Hayao Miyazaki (“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away”), the man behind the beloved Studio Ghibli from Japan. After flirting with the help of computers for a short span, Miyazaki has gone back to his roots. With a screenplay penned by Miyazaki himself, Studio Ghibli continues its American partnership with Disney with “The Secret World of Arrietty,” a beautifully understated animation centered on a forbidden friendship.

Adapted from the 1952 classic novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton and dubbed from the original Japanese animation, “The Secret World of Arrietty” centers around the Clocks, a family of tiny people who live in the floorboards of a house and “borrow” supplies they need from humans. When 14-year-old Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) goes on her first “borrowing” with her father Pod (Will Arnett), she gets noticed by Shawn (David Henrie), a young boy who has just moved into the house. Though it is discouraged by her father and mother (Amy Poehler), Arrietty slowly develops a friendship with Shawn, while still attempting to remain incognito to protect her family.

One of the stronger points of “The Secret World of Arrietty” is the fantastic voice acting across the board. Known mostly for her TV work on the Disney Channel, Mendler is great as the young Arrietty, particularly in vocalizing her curiosity. While the rest of the voice cast is strong, the highlight of the cast is Poehler as the constantly flustered and anxious Homily. Her overexcited inflection and screams alone provide the film with some of its funniest moments. Though dubbing foreign films over in English can sometimes cause a distracting discrepancy between mouth movement and speech, that isn’t the case in “Arrietty.”

There is an underlying sense of tranquility that weaves its way throughout “Arrietty,” a tone that is established early and reinforced especially through the stoic Pod character and the leisurely pace of the film. The scenes where we see Arrietty and her father journey through the nooks and crannies of the house are filled with mesmerizing long takes that display an environment in which the smallest items like nails or sugar cubes serve as foils in their adventures.

Although there is one monologue in the film that might be a little intense for younger kids, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a film that is enjoyable for audiences of all ages. There are plenty of visuals and adventurous scenes to keep children invested. The film works largely in part to Miyazaki’s fantastic script filled with empathy and sentimentality, mostly for the Borrowers themselves and Shawn’s earnest desire to make friends. If nothing else, “The Secret World of Arrietty” proves you don’t need high-tech animation to create a captivating world with its own intricacies.

Baby Mama

April 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Greg Kinnear
Directed by: Michael McCullers (debut)
Written by: Michael McCullers (“Austin Powers in Goldmember”)

If anyone can make being dorky sexy it’s actress/writer Tina Fey. The former “Saturday Nigh Live” star returns to the big screen for the first time in “Baby Mama” (we won’t hold her cameo in “Beer League” against her) since the 2004 comedy “Mean Girls,” which she also wrote.

Taking the helm as the screenwriter and first-time director is Michael McCullers, who worked on “SNL” as a writer during the 1997-1998 season. This was at the same time Fey jumped on board as one of the shows sketch writers.

In “Baby Mama,” Fey plays Kate Holbrook, a successful businesswoman who finds out she is unable to have children just as soon as her biological clock begins ticking. Actually, the ticking is more like manic banging as Kate decides to do anything she can to have a child before all her eggs dry up.

Putting all her faith in surrogacy, Kate welcomes Angie Ostrowiski (Amy Poehler) into her life as the woman who will carry her baby to full term. The film takes a turn towards something like “The Odd Couple” when Angie, who is only participating in the miracle of birth for the money, breaks up with her boyfriend and moves into Kate’s apartment.

In a wave of predictability, “Baby Mama” turns pregnancy into drudgery when all we really want is some type of comedic elements that are a bit sharper than McCullers is able to deliver. While Fey drops some nice one-liners (“My avatar’s dressed like a whore!”) and a small role by Steve Martin proves he has a bit more to give the genre than “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Pink Panther” sequels, there’s a disappointing air lingering throughout the film mostly brought on by Poehler’s caricature role and McCullers’ inconsistent humor.