Pixar's newbie won't just make you cry — it'll make you understand why we do.
Anyone afraid that the team at Pixar may have lost their edge can officially put those concerns to rest. After an uncharacteristic run of (relative) disappointments in the form of Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, their most recent effort, Inside Out, signals a stunning return to form. With a wonderfully inventive premise supported by a cerebral sense of humour along with vibrant animation and a bucketload of pathos, this isn’t just one of Pixar’s best films of the past few years, but one of their best films full stop. And yes, it is going to make you cry.
Co-written and directed by Pixar regular Pete Docter, who previously manned the ship on both Monsters Inc and Up, Inside Out takes place inside the brain of 11-year-old Riley, home to Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness. Voiced by Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Lewis Black and MVP Phyllis Smith, respectively, the mismatched group are in control of Riley’s mood and take care of her core memories — memories which in turn create the basis for her personality. But things get more complicated when Riley’s family decide to move to San Francisco, a change that neither Riley nor her emotions quite know how to handle.
Aesthetically speaking, it should almost go without saying that Inside Out is astounding. The fantastical setting gives the animators full license to unleash their imaginations, an opportunity they obviously relish. The world of Riley’s brain is one of life and vivid colour, a cartoon fairyland that you’ll never want to leave. Each of her five emotions boasts its own unique and expressive design, while the voice cast is terrific across the board.
Of course it helps that both cast and production team are working with one of Pixar’s best ever scripts, one that’s not only highly original but very, very funny. There’s tons of straightforward physical humour for the kids, but the true gems of Docter’s screenplay are the jokes about the mind itself. After Joy and Sadness are inadvertently transported to the outer recesses of Riley’s brain, the return journey takes them through such territories as Imagination Land and Long Term Memory, as well as the Hollywood-style studio responsible for producing Riley’s dreams. A trip through Abstract Thinking will fly straight over a six-year-old’s head, but anyone who’s ever taken an Introduction to Psychology class will be rolling in the aisles.
But the most incredible thing about Inside Out is how it deals with sadness. Plenty of Pixar movies have the capacity to make people cry, but Inside Out is about why we cry. While Joy spends a majority of the film trying to stop Sadness from affecting how Riley feels, the reality is that sometimes Sadness is the most important emotion of all. Without her, and the catharsis that she provides, how does anyone learn to cope with pain or loss? Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good cry. That’s an incredibly important lesson, and not just for the kids.