It should come as no surprise to readers familiar with my cinematic taste buds, that I don’t ride on the Pixar bandwagon. It’s possible that my inner child doesn’t respond to the stories or that I’m a little dead inside. I do think that Pixar has its standouts, particularly with The Incredibles. I’ve just never seen the draw for most of the others. (I’m hoping my heart will grow three times some day.) Cars signaled the beginning of the slump for Pixar and since then, they’ve gone the way of late ’90s Disney. Hackneyed sequels galore. Yet, Pixar took one year off of movie releases and are releasing two original ideas in 2015, with Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. After this year of originality, we are headed back to sequels with Cars 3, Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2.
In terms of the creativity they once had, Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar. Even if it is a mashup of the ’90s sitcom, Herman’s Head and The Neverending Story 2.
Inside Out largely takes place inside the mind of Riley. This tween girl spent her happy childhood years living in the Midwest. Suddenly, her family is uprooted to San Francisco. She is clearly out of her element and not very happy with the move and her family’s situation. Our narrator and main character, inside Riley’s brain, is Joy (voiced by Amy Pohler). Joy tries to make the best of every situation for Riley, but every day she has to balance out the other emotions who want their time in the spotlight. These emotions are Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (a perfectly cast Lewis Black).
Every time Riley makes a memory, a memory ball is created and sorted in the memory banks – literal walls of storage. Depending on which emotion had the controls, the ball is permanently colored as such. With Riley moving across the country, Sadness starts infecting past memories with blue. In an effort to salvage the pivotal memories, Joy gets herself (and Sadness) vacuumed out of the Headquarters and left to find a way back through the endless labyrinth of the memory banks.
For the majority of the movie, we follow Joy and Sadness on their way back. Meanwhile, Fear, Disgust and Anger try to make up for the missing emotions and mess with Riley’s mood while they’re at it.
Conceptually, this is a perfect movie. Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen have put together a world where everything is existential and even included a few puns as well. The train of thought is a literal train. Yet, being so purposely clever leaves out the audience of children. At some points, you can almost hear the writers patting themselves on their respective backs. To make up for the lack of kid-friendly material, they introduce Riley’s old imaginary friend, Bing Bong. As annoying as this character is to begin with, he becomes the heart of the movie.
Don’t be surprised when you hear the adults in the crowd chuckling and/or crying, but the kids just messing with their 3D glasses.
Throughout the movie, I was disappointed that I wasn’t seeing the flick I was promised. I was excited to see into the mind and how these emotions balance each other out. Instead, it became Homeward Bound…but with memory balls. Finally, in the last five minutes, Inside Out picked up in a big way. Without spoiling them, the biggest laughs come when we jump into the minds of everyone and everything nearby Riley. The moments were brief, but classic. I only wish those laughs had been spread out in the movie, instead of just ending in a big way.
When my daughter and I walked out of the movie, I had to know what she thought, especially as she is the intended demographic. She responded that she liked it, but it was a little boring. She then immediately asked if we could go to the store and buy a Joy action figure. Mission accomplished Inside Out…
This is a creative, but not overly funny, movie. Too much time is spent in the memory banks. It feels like filler. If you cried during the first few minutes of Up, you’ll most likely shed a tear here. For me, this movie about emotions felt a little emotionless and forgettable until it saved itself in the end. B