Friday, June 26, 2015


Twenty years after releasing their first film "Toy Story," it's only fitting that Pixar would make a movie that essentially boils down what a "Pixar movie" is all about. An image has been passed around Twitter over the past week that humorously pointed out that almost every Pixar movie released in the last 20 years has been about "what if [inanimate object/animal] had feelings?" Under "Inside Out" it said: "what if FEELINGS had feelings?" It's funny because it's true, but to say that is to be under the impression that the people behind Pixar don't realize that's what they're doing.

Because so many of us have grown up watching these Pixar movies, I think we forget one crucial thing: Pixar will always be about the kids. The fact that the studio has been able to create such unique and wonderful films, while still making variations of the same formula, that's not really something to be ashamed of. "Inside Out" breaks down the Pixar formula to its purest state, the movie is an exploration of the formula. It's a movie intended to make you laugh, cry, and feel all warm and gooey at the end and like several other Pixar films, it succeeds brilliantly.

For being a movie intended mainly for kids, "Inside Out" is really quite ambitious. We watch this girl, Riley Anderson, go from being a newborn to 11 years old. But this movie is moreso about Riley's feelings than anything else. Her feelings are personified as such: you have Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger, and Sadness. Joy is kind of the leader of the group and has been with Riley from the beginning. While she has formed a strong, sometimes contentious bond with Fear, Disgust, and Anger, she continually disallows Sadness from interfering with Riley's day and her memories. But Sadness becomes more difficult to handle when Riley and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Suddenly, all of Riley's friends are gone and her new home isn't exactly what she had in mind.

Once Sadness begins playing around with Riley's core memories, the memories that most help to shape who Riley really is, Joy gets in a fight with Sadness until the two are sucked up into a different part of Riley's consciousness. Eventually, Joy comes to realize just how vital Sadness is to the group and that Riley needs Sadness to continue to grow in life. Together, with the help of an ol' imaginary friend of Riley's, Joy and Sadness must find a way to get back to "headquarters" in order to help Riley deal with her pain.

It's a very simple, yet poignant message that co-writer/director Peter Docter explores here. Of course we need both happiness and sadness in order to live a complete life, but this is something we often have difficulty coming to terms with during our adolescence. Why else do we struggle so much during our pre-teen years (and sometimes for many years after)? Things change. Our childhood is over. We learn the hard truths about our life. We learn one day we'll die, our parents will die, everyone will die. We need sadness to help us come to terms with such harsh realities. Again, the message might be fairly obvious to us adults, but it's an especially deep and profound message to tell kids. As for those who have been through that stage in life, it's simply something that rings true.

Praise must be given to the animation of both Riley's consciousness and the real world. The world of San Francisco is all reflected through Riley's experiences. And the animators add so much color and beauty to Riley's mind. Very strong, primary colors that counter-balance the grays that we see in the real world. The movie's voice casting is another stroke of genius. There's Amy Poehler as Joy, which makes perfect sense. Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Bill Hader as Fear, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Lewis Black as Anger. Really inspired stuff right there.

If the film had a weakness, it would be with Riley's actual storyline, but this is pretty understandable. You're kind of throwing a lot out there for kids to take in. There's a lot to explain when it comes to what's going on inside Riley's head and the movie is really more about the struggle between Joy and Sadness. While we put up with way too many unwarranted sequels these days, I would totally dig an "Inside Out 2." Now that we fully understand the inner-workings of the mind (according to this world), there's so much more that you can do with a sequel. Plus, they introduce a "puberty" button towards the end of the movie that's just begging to be pushed at some point.

All Pixar movies, or at least the best ones, are pretty shameless when it comes to exploring the sentimental aspects of the story being told. You think of "Toy Story 3" or "Up" or "Finding Nemo." They all deal with equal amounts of joy and sadness. "Inside Out" strips away any pretension and deals with these emotions head on. And through that, it tells us that they keep using this formula because it works. Most of the time, it works with adults, but it especially works with children. As parents, we often try so very hard to keep our children from feeling sad, or at least letting them talk through their sadness and get a deeper understanding of who you are. Basically, Pixar uses this formula to do a job that parents are too afraid to do. A point very well taken, Pixar.

Filled to the brim with ambition, but never forgetting to bring the humor. There's just something very awe-inspiring and wonderful about a movie that so intensely explores the mind of a young girl. So much of the time animation deals with the fantasy. A great majority of Disney movies are about princes and princesses. Here's a movie that's strictly about the perils of growing up, moving away, and trying to cope with change. And it deals with these issues by exploring feelings and how they work. I laughed quite a bit while watching "Inside Out," but I also felt sad on occasion and even had tears come to my eyes during certain moments. And you know what? In the end, it all felt pretty damn great.

Grade: A-

No comments: