Director: Pete Docter
Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind
Plot: Joy (Poehler) is in charge of Riley’s emotions, but her co-workers, especially the miserable Sadness (Smith) often get in her way.
Pixar have an incredible imagination. No one is denying that. Their best works are often the ones where they latch onto an idea and just run wild with it. What if toys talked when our backs were turned? What if the monsters under the bed had a whole community together? How does a superhero handle family life? While some of their later works lack this killer unique selling point (talking cars will always be Pixar’s bad day at the office), Inside Out returns Pixar back to the masters of creativity that we always knew they were. While the likes of Toy Story and Bug’s Life were wondrous examples of how powerful an imagination could be, words do not describe the wonder and originality of Inside Out. Pixar have come up with an idea and have just run with it, to the point where every child has a new favourite film.
The easiest way to describe Inside Out is comparing it to an old comic strip in the Beano, the Numskulls. Like Inside Out, the comic chronicled the daily life of a schoolboy, with his five senses controlling his brain. Of course, they got up to no good and the fun was in seeing how their interactions moulded their chosen child’s daily routine. It is almost as though someone at Pixar’s head office picked up this comic and a light bulb dinged above their head. The following movie is simply brilliant, imagination and creativity sparking out of every scene and corner of the script. It playfully explores the complexities of the human mind and emotions, never once tripping up on the balancing act between a good story and an entertaining thrill-ride. You end up engrossed in this movie simply to see what trick Pixar are going to come out with next. Riley’s train of thought is exactly what it sounds like: a train of random thoughts and facts (mixed up and jumbled, of course), on a never-ending course around her mind. An annoying jingle that Riley can’t get rid of is actually caused by two memory shelf-stackers getting bored at work and pranking the emotions in the ‘head-quarters’. The best scenes for me were in ‘Dreamwork’ studios (the name alone acts as the perfect example of the cheeky imagination on display with Inside Out). The dreams are created by various characters acting as a film studio. A recurring unicorn dream is embodied by a diva unicorn actress that spends most of the film in her trailer. Everything from the curtains up panic to the promo posters for stereotypical nightmares is perfectly hilarious. To top it off, Bill Hader’s Fear lazily comments from his desk, as he watches the dreams, like some late-night show. Moments like this and you just want to find the nearest Pixar employee and shake their hand. This – this right here – is what animated movies should aspire to be.
However, the real impression Pixar makes is harder to grasp. The problem with Pixar is that we have started to take them for granted. They come out with these fantastic movies year after year, to the point where we could be argued to have stopped realising just how good they are. There is a reason no other animation studio can keep up with them (Dreamworks come the closest, but aren’t as consistent). Any other studio would grab an idea like Inside Out and just lose control of it, too many ideas creating a bloated mess that works as mindless fun for the youngsters, but offers little else. And in all honesty, if someone was to make that movie, we would probably like it to an extent. However, Pixar never forget the most important part of a story: the story. It would have been easy for Pete Docter to keep Inside Out as a mismatched buddy road trip as Amy Poehler’s chirpy hero manoeuvres through Riley’s thoughts with her dull co-worker, Sadness. However, Docter knows that Pixar needs to appeal to the humanity of the story as well as the craziness. When it is time to turn up the emotion, whether it is an imaginary friend realising he has out-lived his usefulness or Riley’s parents being unable to express their love for their daughter, Pixar delivers in spades. Just like Docter’s last effort, Up, Inside Out has the potential to be a proper tear-jerker, when the mood strikes. But even more, it teaches us something about ourselves. How our childhood and emotions mould our personality? How we, as individuals, struggle to interact with both other humans, or sometimes, our conflicting emotions? It is interesting to think of our bursts of rage depicted as something as simple as a stray emotion slamming a fist onto a button in the heat of the moment. Inside Out is a proud entry into the very best of Pixar’s works and another reason that they are the masters of children’s cinema.
Final Verdict: Inside Out is a masterful creation, boasting emotion, themes, imagination and endless entertainment.