UK Release Date: 24th July 2015
Runtime: 102 minutes
Director: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
Writer: Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Pete Docter
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Kyle MacLachlan
Synopsis: When her family moves home, a young girl’s life is turned upside down as the emotions in her head are shaken.
Once the most fiercely original voice in animated cinema, Pixar have cleaved to their proven successes in recent years, producing sequels and prequels. Given the slight disappointment of 2012’s Brave, you have to go back to 2009 and Up to find the last time the studio really scored on an original film. Appropriately enough, the director of that film, Pete Docter, leads Pixar back to its roots in breath-taking originality with the blisteringly emotional Inside Out.
Hockey-playing young girl Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) moves from Minnesota to San Francisco when her father (Kyle MacLachlan) gets a new job. Inside her head, the anthropomorphic emotions that drive her are shaken by the move. Joy (Amy Poehler) has her peace shattered and finds herself marooned in the midst of Riley’s memory with Sadness (Phyllis Smith). This leaves Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) in control of Riley.
Inside Out is, without question, the single most emotionally complex children’s film of the last decade. The film takes the inner workings of a child’s mind and conjures up a metaphorical world that illuminates, enriches and explains the way in which that mind deals with enormous changes in life and, most crucially, the loss of innocence.
| "We did not die today. I call that an unqualified success."
The world created by Docter and Ronnie del Carmen for Inside Out is one of astounding complexity. Beyond the simple structure of emotions controlling a person, the film introduces the concept of different levels of memory. Certain important “core memories” create “islands of personality” that drive certain aspects of a person – love for family, talent for hockey, a penchant for silliness. There are dozens more of these touches that add richness and depth to the world, which has seemingly endless corners to explore.
None of the complexity of the Inside Out universe would work, if not for the characters that populate it. Riley is a refreshingly ordinary young girl, made extraordinary by Kaitlyn Dias’ tender vocal performance. It’s entirely believable that she is driven by these emotions, from the delightfully peppy Amy Poehler to the hilariously lethargic Phyllis Smith. The odd couple chemistry between those two figures is the centre of the film’s major narrative, with their shared naïveté providing endless laughs.
The third part of that triangle is Richard Kind as Bing Bong – a long-lost imaginary friend from Riley’s younger years. As Bing Bong deals with his increasing irrelevance in Riley’s life, it’s genuinely heart-breaking. We’ve all had friends, whether or real or imaginary, fall out of our lives and so it resonates, particularly when the character delivers his sucker punch of a final line. I’ve seen it twice and still wasn’t prepared for the emotion.
| "Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems."
Pixar is at its best when it uses its cinema to illuminate real life. Inside Out certainly does that, but also remembers that it needs to work as a family adventure film as well. Thankfully, it does, with wryly observed humour, some great sight gags for the kids and plenty of tumbling through the aforementioned kaleidoscopic world. There’s a tonne of psychology for adults to chew on, but there’s equally no way that the kids are going to be bored.
It isn’t the adventure that Inside Out will be remembered for though. As perhaps Pixar’s richest film, it’s a wise and learned take on the role of emotions in the life of a child. With its central message that sadness has a place alongside joy, it’s a film that isn’t just brilliant – it’s important.
Pop or Poop?
Pixar is back at its best with Inside Out, which mixes thematic depth with astonishing visual invention to produce one of the best films of the year.
The voice cast are on great form and the terrific script packs in morality and intense emotional turns, alongside the more conventional adventure narrative that moves the film along.
Whether you’re 8 or 80, there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Inside Out, which is a family film in the best sense of that phrase.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.