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Three Views: Inside Out

June 19, 2015

Inside Out Poster

Inside Out – A Walt Disney Studios Release

Release Date: June 19th, 2015
Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action
Running Time: 103 minutes

Pete Docter (director)
Ronnie Del Carmen (co-director)

Meg LeFauve (screenplay)
Josh Cooley (screenplay)
Pete Docter (screenplay)

Michael Giacchino (music)

Amy Poehler as Joy (voice)
Phyllis Smith as Sadness (voice)
Richard Kind as Bing Bong (voice)
Bill Hader as Fear (voice)
Lewis Black as Anger (voice)
Mindy Kaling as Disgust (voice)
Kaitlyn Dias as Riley (voice)
Diane Lane as Mom (voice)
Kyle MacLachlan as Dad (voice)

Inside Out

Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and
Joy (Amy Poehler) in Disney•Pixar’s Inside Out.

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Inside Out Review By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

At what point do we stop remembering every aspect of our childhood, and are some memories destined to be forgotten, in order to make way for new ones?  When we get older, do we just have to accept sadness in order to find joy?  As I drift through my young adult years, and farther away from my own childhood, I’ve been asking myself a lot of these questions over the last little while.  And many of these same ideas are explored in Inside Out, the latest triumph from the geniuses at Pixar Animation Studios, and the third from visionary director Pete Docter.

This is the studio’s first film in two years, and one of their absolute best, an experience that moves fast and keeps us fully entertained, while also pondering moments from our own lives.  Emotionally rich, thematically satisfying and visually inventive, Inside Out is a shining and powerful example of the best that animation has to offer, a truly special film that features the perfect balance of inspired humour, and also plenty of tears.  Joy and Sadness were in charge of my emotions the entire time, and as of right now, I can’t imagine seeing a better or more affective film this year.

Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is a generally happy eleven year old girl, who is both the protagonist and main setting of Inside Out.  She is the protagonist, because the majority of the narrative involves her struggles with a stressful move from Minnesota to San Francisco, forcing her to leave behind her best friend and beloved hockey team, and providing increasing tension between her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan).  But she is also the main setting, because much of the journey takes place inside her mind, as seen from the perspective of her five emotions.

Since Riley was a baby, Joy (Amy Poehler) has been the main one at the controllers in Headquarters, making sure that she remains happy and playful, leaving the lonely Sadness (Phyllis Smith) to often feel left out and question her purpose in life.  Anger (Lewis Black) controls her temper and makes sure things are fair, Fear (Bill Hader) is in charge of keeping her safe, and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) keeps her from being poisoned, both physically and socially.  And as she inches towards adolescence, they are all increasingly important players within her mind.

But when Joy and Sadness get lost in the many winding halls of her Long Term Memory, Riley’s world is thrown even further off balance and she starts to experience depression, forcing the two differing emotions to work together, in order to get her memories and feelings back in order.  They also encounter Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Riley’s imaginary friend from when she was three, who has essentially become a hobo and is terrified of being forgotten.  He’s one of those characters who is almost destined to be a fan favourite, an adorable and instantly lovable creation who will also break your heart.

The appealing designs of these central characters are matched by a pitch perfect voice cast.  Amy Poehler does a wonderful job of portraying both the upbeat nature and maternal instincts of her character, and Phyllis Smith does equally outstanding work on the other end of the emotional spectrum, bringing genuine feeling to her depressed counterpart.  Bill Hader nicely captures the sound of jittery anxiety, Mindy Kaling does her best impression of a moody teen girl, and comedian Lewis Black is the perfect choice to portray feelings of anger.  The lovely music by Michael Giacchino is maybe the composer’s finest and most resonant work since his now iconic score for Up six years ago.

From the gorgeous opening sequence, when Joy emerges inside the infinite darkness of Riley’s newborn mind, opening her eyes for the first time and peering up at her parents, the film captures something profound about what makes each of us unique, even if we all more or less have the same five emotions in control.  And for those worried that only showing five emotions won’t encompass enough of the wide ranging spectrum of feelings, the film proves that it’s possible for a single emotion to have a complete character arc, coming to understand and embody more than just their designated role.

If all of this sounds intellectually stimulating, that’s because it is, but Inside Out is also incredibly relatable in the way it sets up these ideas.  The film boasts wildly imaginative and richly detailed visuals, with the sequences in our world offering some of the most beautifully realistic animation that Pixar has ever done.  The film even takes a turn for the surrealistic, taking us to such destinations as Abstract Thought, Imagination Land and Dream Productions, which all make inventive use of the animated medium.  The clever screenplay also includes some of Pixar’s funniest moments, and the hilarious end credits sequence is like a cathartic release, laughs that come naturally after the tears.

And believe me, I cried a lot during Inside Out.  Because this is a film about emotions, it’s only fitting that our own feelings are taken on a roller coaster ride, and rarely has a mainstream animated film felt this reflective or bittersweet.  Among the most ingenious elements is how Riley’s memories are shown as glowing spheres, which can be projected back into her mind.  The happy ones are yellow, the same colour as Joy, but when Sadness touches them, they turn blue and gain twinges of melancholia.  This offers a touching representation of how our perception of memories that were once happy, especially those from childhood, can easily turn poignant the farther we get away from them.

This is undoubtedly one of the most profoundly moving explorations of memory and emotion that I have ever seen, and in a library of deeply affective films, Inside Out is also among Pixar’s most complex works yet.  I attribute much of this emotional honesty to Pete Docter, a filmmaker who continues to prove that he is unafraid of using animation to explore deeper themes, this time inspired by watching his own daughter grow up.  Like the beautifully realized opening montage of his Oscar-winning 2009 film Up, and the deeply resonant final scenes of his 2001 debut Monsters, Inc., there are similarly entire sequences in Inside Out that are almost painfully open in the ways they tug at our heartstrings.

There are several montages of Riley getting older, flashes of memories that feel both personal and universally relatable, which have an absolutely gutting emotional impact.  Riley is all of us, just another kid not quite ready to grow up, but needing to do so anyways.  Yes, this is a story about the death of childhood, heartachingly showing getting older as the end of some things.  But it also shows the end of being a kid as a rebirth of sorts, a natural progression that allows us to have new experiences and make more memories.  This is a film that tells us it’s okay to grow up, and that feeling blue is a natural and important part of the human condition, just so long as our emotions find ways to work together.

So if I sound personally attached to this film, that’s because I am.  The literal and figurative emotions of Inside Out have become a sort of guiding force in my own life since I first saw the film two weeks ago, a metaphor with which to explore my own current feelings and memories of childhood.  Beautifully balancing the joy with the sadness, this is a film that will steal your heart, break it wide open and then proceed to fix it again, an incredibly entertaining and extremely moving mix of emotions that has the power to revolutionize the way we think about what’s going on inside our own minds.

Before Inside Out, there’s the new short film Lava, a sweet musical love story between two volcanos in Hawaii, which features some breathtaking animation.  It’s a charming showcase for Pixar’s ability to make anthropomorphized objects capture our hearts, and the song by director James Ford Murphy, who also sings and plays the ukelele, will get caught in your head in a good kind of way.

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Inside Out Review By Erin Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

What goes on inside our heads?  How can we feel one way one moment, and then another the next?  What colours our memories with the emotions of the moment?  Inside Out is another masterful outing from Disney•Pixar that explores an entirely new – yet very familiar to us all – world.  Inside the workings of our heads.

Inside Out opens where we meet Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) as a baby.  The first emotion to pop into her head is Joy (Amy Poehler), who, as Riley’s eyes open for the first time, experiences through Riley the wonderment of her new world.  Next to come is Sadness (Phyllis Smith), then Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Anger (Lewis Black).  These five emotions and the way they work together help make Riley who she is.

After another well-done montage from director Pete Doctor (Up), we meet 11-year-old Riley.  Hockey-playing, goofy, loving, and smart.  But as her parents decide to move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley’s world and that of her emotions is turned upside-down.  When Joy and Sadness accidentally get lost in Long Term Memory, they have to find their way back before Riley changes forever.

It’s a hard film to synopsize without giving much away, or ending up confusing.  The concepts of the inner-workings of the mind are really visual and have to be seen on screen.  The literal conceptualization of the Train of Thought, Long Term Memory, Recall Tubes, Dream Production, and more, are well thought out and oddly feel believable in the visual incarnation they are given.

While being visually stunning, Inside Out is also at its heart as it should be.  Emotional.  As Joy and Sadness learn from each other and how emotions really are more intertwined than we may like to think, it is hard to keep tears from welling up in the last act.  Anyone who’s experienced sudden mixed emotions and the confusing time of growing up and handling change, will relate to the range of emotions that come flooding through here. And thanks to a solid script as we are catapulted back and forth between the timelines happening inside and outside of Riley’s head, it feels fluid and seamless.

The score by Michael Giacchino elevates the emotions of the film as well, as do the voice performances by the entire cast, and in particular, leads Poehler and Smith.  There is no doubt – Inside Out is a film that will take you on an emotional ride in the best way possible.

Attached to Inside Out is the short film Lava.  Following the lives of two volcanoes as they sing out their hope for someone by their side, it is a quirky yet charming short.  Be sure to arrive early so as not to miss it.

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Inside Out Review By Maureen Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a way you could get inside someone’s head and understand what they were thinking and feeling?  Wait.  Pixar just did that, with genius director Pete Docter’s Inside Out, an entertaining and brilliantly insightful adventure inside the mind of an eleven year old girl.

Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias), her mom (Diane Lane) and dad (Kyle MacClachlan) move from Minnesota to San Francisco, leaving behind Riley’s childhood friends and the hockey team she loved playing on.  When she reacts by retreating inside her own thoughts and emotions, we get to watch her inner world unfold through the incredibly imaginative animation that makes up this brilliant movie.

According to Inside Out, everyone’s emotions are controlled by five basic characters.  Inside Riley, there’s yellow Joy (Amy Poehler), blue Sadness (Phyllis Smith), purple Fear (Bill Hader), red Anger (Lewis Black) and green Disgust (Mindy Kaling).  And up to this point, Joy has been the main one at the control panel.  But things change for her when Sadness starts to take over, forcing Joy and Sadness to go on a journey inside Riley’s mind to try and set things right, leaving Fear, Anger and Disgust at the controls.

What’s brilliant about Inside Out is how so many aspects of the mind are visually depicted.  Memories look like see through bowling balls, the subconscious is a dark pit and key areas of memories are grouped together on islands.  Riley has islands called Family, Goofball, Hockey, Friendship and Honesty.  But as Riley’s emotions start to fall apart, so do her islands.

As Joy and Sadness journey through Riley’s mind, we are treated to some incredibly funny moments and also some truly touching ones.  It’s in Riley’s mind that we meet Bing Bong (Richard King), and experience one of the most creative animated depictions of abstract thought.  The whole sequence in abstract thought still has me thinking about how brilliant it is.  If only the psychology classes that I took in university had been this entertaining and informative.

Inside Out feels perfect in every way.  The story is insightful, touching and relatable.  The animation is creative, colourful and very entertaining.  The voice work, especially from Amy Poehler’s Joy and Phyllis Smith’s Sadness, is solid all around.  Backed up by another wonderful score by Michael Giacchino, Inside Out is a truly special experience from beginning to end.  Stay for the end credits montage to see the emotions of a wide range of characters.  My favourite?  The cat’s emotions panel.  Watch for it.

Inside Out deserves a lot of attention when awards season rolls around.  But in the meantime, adults, families and especially children in the ten and up range, can enjoy this wonderfully creative glimpse of the inner workings of that fascinating place called the mind.

Before Inside Out is Lava, a charming musical tale of a lonely volcano who wants to fall in “lava.”  A sweet story that reminds us it’s never to late to fall in lava, this one will have you longing for a trip to Hawaii with your special someone.  Delightful.

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Consensus: The latest triumph from the geniuses at Pixar, and visionary director Pete Docter, Inside Out is a masterful film that uses visually inventive animation to deliver an entertaining and incredibly emotional glimpse inside the mind. ★★★★ (out of 4)

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