Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Stars: Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Kyle MacLachlan
Thoughtful animated classic
Pixar might’ve gone through a rare dip in quality when they went onto making stuff that was aimed specifically at children like Cars 2 and Brave. They started clawing their way back up to greatness when Monsters University launched last year, a film which I still think is somewhat underrated with its gorgeous creative visuals and fantastic characters. Inside Out sees Pixar pick up their crown again and reign supreme as the queen of animated films.
It’s an instant classic which ranks up the very best Pixar has to offer. I’d argue that it’s the best film they’ve done since Toy Story 3 and the best of the year so far, outdoing the likes of Mad Max 4 and Whiplash. But that’s no surprise considering that Pete Docter is behind the camera and paper again. It’s a complex and ingenious premise which personifies emotions we all carry in our heads. Each emotion in Riley’s head manages to be funny, likeable and relevant to the story. I particularly liked Sadness and Anger. I’m not quite sure what that says about me.
It’s Joy at the controls though and she’s one of those annoyingly positive people who manages to see the good in absolutely everything. If someone shot her in the head, she’d probably congratulate them on the excellent pot-shot. Entertainingly for us though, she goes off on an extreme character-building lesson which sees her lost in the abyss of Riley’s long-term memory along with her least favourite emotion, Sadness. Sadness is an adorable blue blob who is clumsy and well-meaning but permanently depressed. Whilst Joy and Sadness are away, leaving Anger, Disgust and Fear at the controls, eleven year-old Riley goes through a massive breakdown.
The film does a fantastic job of setting up a potentially confusing premise in a fun and simplistic way. The first act is basically all exposition which sets everything up and suitably engages the audience. It reminded me of the scene in Inception where Leo explains the dream world concept to Ellen Page. I know exposition can irritate a lot of people, but in high concept films like this I think it’s pretty essential, otherwise we’d be sat their open-mouthed and dead behind the eyes like watching Upstream Colour.
The editing is absolutely wonderful as it manages to balance three stories which are all connected to one another in a masterful way. The main story concerns Joy and Sadness on their exceptionally entertaining Finding Nemo-style adventures, the other two secondary stories (although still no less critical to the plot) involve the other emotions in the control tower and Riley suffering a mental breakdown out in the real world.
The entire film not only works as a fantastic story on its own, but also as an analogy for mental breakdowns in general. Now whenever I feel unhappy randomly I’ll know that it’s because Joy has left my control room, or that Sadness has accidently touched a memory. It’s also a brilliant way of letting kids know that it’s OK to be sad and it’s perfectly normal to feel angry. There are a whole load of deeper meanings and gags that are likely to go over the heads of children, but everyone else will be sure to appreciate them. Kids will definitely be able to appreciate the highly creative visuals and lovable characters.
All Pixar films are eye-popping, but Inside Out is particularly incredible. There’s no end of bright, creative and trippy visuals which very much reminded me of my favourite Pixar film, Up. It all has substance too though and is relevant to the plot. There’s a wonderful sequence where the characters enter Dream Productions and we see how our dreams are really made. Not only is it side-splittingly hilarious, it’s clever, high-concept and beautiful to look at.
There are also quite a few genuinely emotional moments. I’m not one to get teary in films, but there’s one scene involving a gorgeous character called Bing Bong which really made me well up. It isn’t your average light and fluffy, happy-clappy kiddy film. It goes to deeper and darker places and pulls at your heart strings. Watching a little girl go through a spat of depression is not cheery viewing! There is of course an inevitable happy ending and it’s all the more heart-warming because of the darker scenes that preceded it.
In short, Inside Out is an animated masterpiece. I cannot for the life of me think of any faults, apart from that it went by far too quickly. It has everything you need in a film. It’s funny, emotional, creative, original, intelligent, deep and thoughtful. It’s full of memorable and likable characters whom you’ll go away remembering. It’s a film for any age so if you’re one of these “Ooh animation’s for kids innit” type people I’d urge you to drop any plans you have for the weekend and go and see this with all your adult/teenage friends.
Pixar is incredibly popular and so you’ll be bound to find people on the internet bashing it like they do Christopher Nolan films and anything else that is popular so don’t listen to them. It’s a towering achievement and a return to form. It’s their first original non-sequel since Brave in 2012 and it’s well worth the wait. They’ve expressed disinterest in a sequel to Inside Out, but I’d love to see all these fantastic characters return.