Pixar’s fifteenth film, Inside Out, takes place within the mind of 11-year old Riley Anderson, and focuses on the five main emotions within her head: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Let me take you on a journey of the mind as we find out what the voices are telling Riley.
Without attempting to spoil the film too much, Riley is a girl whose life revolves around the love of her parents, enjoyment of ice hockey, and the fun of being with her friends. All of these aspects of who she is, is shown through her mind, and the five basic emotions inside. We see her as she grows, and get to know how her life experiences make up who she is. At age 11, her world is thrown into the dishwasher of turmoil as her parents pack the cutlery and dishes of their lives and make the move from Minnesota (it’s never mentioned precisely where in Minnesota) to San
Fransokyo Francisco. Meanwhile, within Riley’s head, Joy and Sadness get sucked out of mission control and into the dim back-alleys of Riley’s long-term memory storage, and have to make their way back to the Control Centre. This, obviously, means that Fear, Anger, and Disgust are left at the helm, and things go…about as expected, I guess.
Riley aside, the inner characters are obviously ridiculously diverse in temperament, and the art design shows this beautifully, from their colours to their forms. The actors chosen to voice these characters seem to echo the design choices, and voice casting is definitely a huge pull for the film. You can see the joy of who Joy is, and the dumpy sadness of Sadness. Fear is just as neurotic as you’d expect, and Anger…well, blows up at everything. The one character who in my mind is the least effective is Disgust, because the others play off each other so well.
There are no bad guys here, no overarching evil–the story is about the drama going on in Riley’s life, and how she copes with being torn away from everything she knows and loves. And with Sadness and Joy lost within the recesses of her memories, the other emotions seem more extreme without the tempering effect. It’s glorious. It should be becoming increasingly evident that this film isn’t aimed at the same audience as, say, Toy Story or Monsters Inc, but rather at an older crowd who derived plenty of meaning from Up. The teen and adult focus is clear almost from the outset of the movie, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing here for kids to enjoy. Much of the middle of the film involving Joy and Sadness’s journey back to the front of Riley’s mind is much more the kind of thing younger viewers will enjoy.
This seems to be where the film feels a little schizophrenic–this aiming at two vastly different audiences creates a bizarre contrast, and makes it feel a little disjointed. I have the feeling that kids will wish there was more of the crazy inner world of Riley’s mind, and the older people would want more of what’s going on outside Riley’s head. What was interesting was that, while I could very accurately predict how events outside Riley’s head would proceed, I found it almost impossible to know what was going to happen next inside–and this is a good thing. It’s been a while since a film has been able to keep me that off balance regarding which way the plot is going to go.
What makes the film interesting to me on a personal level is that I have some background in psychology, so it was fascinating to see how many psychological concepts translated to the film’s visuals. It’s clear that a team of psychologists was on hand to consult the team; many of the ideas that Inside Out covers are pretty much as they work in real life, from the way we forget phone numbers to the way dreams work to the way the day’s memories are sent for long-term storage when we sleep. If you’ve an interest in psychology, you’ll definitely find much here to stimulate said interest.
The Pixar short that played before the film, Lava, is essentially one huge dad joke about a volcano looking for someone to “lava”. It’s adorable, funny, and very much the kind of thing Pixar is known for. It’s not as utterly hilarious as the shorts aimed at younger kids (see Knick Knack and Presto as examples), but it feels very much in line with the target audience for Inside Out. Once again, no surprises here, but the song is something that is STILL sitting in my head, several days later.
Obviously, if you’re a fan of Disney Pixar films, you’re going to go watch this. It’s fun and funny, but I somehow see younger kids missing the point of it. I’ve seen the Inside Out merchandise on the toy store shelves already, so I can tell it’s going to be a big one. In fact, I want my very own little Anger figurine, so if that was your intention, Pixar, congrats. You’ve got a grown man buying toys for his own shelf. Ahem. I mean for my own kids. Absolutely for my own kids. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play with my inner child.
Final Score: 8 Inside Out prawns out of 10
Director: Pete Docter
Producer: Jonas Rivera
Screenplay: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
Starring: Amy Poehler (Joy), Phyllis Smith (Sadness), Bill Hader (Anger), Mindy Kaling (Disgust), Lewis Black (Fear), Kaitlyn Dias (Riley)
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date: 19 June, 2015