It’s been two years since Pixar’s last release, Monster’s University. I somewhat enjoyed the film, but many people I talked to felt that the film had let them down, citing it as second weakest in Pixar’s vast back catalogue (because nothing can be weaker than Cars 2). Can Pixar turn around this minor hiccup and remind us what they are capable of with Inside Out?
Inside Out stars Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Richard Kind and is directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen. The story follows Joy (Poehler) and Sadness (Smith) as two of several of the emotions of a young girl, Riley as she is going through her stressful teenage years.
Pixar films always seem to have some deeper meaning behind them, putting them leagues ahead of any other computer generated kids movies. Whether the subject is single parenting (Finding Nemo) conservation for our planet (Wall-E) or doing what you love despite whatever stands in your way (Ratatouille), Pixar have nailed the idea of having a message for their (normally) younger audience. Inside Out is no different. The film tackles some really heavy subjects and even gets seriously dark just past the halfway point. And amazingly it does so without ever becoming po-faced. The film goes through some of what according to main character Riley seems to be her whole world collapsing, only to find that with the old stuff going, it means better stuff can come along.
The cast is one of the standouts of the film. Amy Poehler does her usual cheery self as the emotion Joy, but through her long tiring journey through Riley’s mind, she becomes worn down and beaten by Riley’s descent into uncertainty, leading Poehler to show some great variation from her typecast role. Phyllis Smith as Sadness is brilliant, and has some of the most powerful scenes in the film, such as the finale where she is in control of Riley, giving Inside Out one of the biggest emotional punches of Pixar’s entire works. A role for Richard Kind as another central character (that I’m not going to spoil here) is a great addition to the film, and really hits home a few of the central themes about childhood memories and loss of innocence.
Lewis Black as Anger is the funniest character in the film, with several of the best lines, including one about the destruction of pizza by San Francisco. His regular flame-ridden explosions are a main highlight of the film, with each one being a new, nearly foul-mouthed tantrum over the minutest things. And as always, it’s nice to see Kyle MacLachlan back at The Student Film Review after his stint in the David Lynch Collection. He, along with Diane Lane, play the respective parents of Riley, each with their own set of emotions, playing up each of their identities and traits, with jokes coming from miscommunication and styles of parenting and discipline.
The script, like many other Pixar works has jokes for all the family. While the slapstick violence was enough to make the children in the viewing I was in laugh, the biggest laughs came from the parents at the more adult jokes. Brazilian fantasy men, an excellent riff on Hollywood (with subtle hints to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Polanski’s Chinatown) and a recurring joke about catchy advert jingle, with the latter accompanied by Anger’s frenzied outbursts, Inside Out is several degrees smarter and wittier than many films recently that have been pegged as “comedies”.
As the standard of Pixar films, Inside Out has its pre-film short animation, this one called Lava. A love story that is set over millions of years, Lava tells the story of two volcano islands falling in love with each other. While the animation and design of the islands is stunning, reminiscent of some of the exquisite design in Surf’s Up, the faces of the islands looks a bit awkward and creepy when they are smiling. The accompanying song (which oddly enough is named “Lava”) however is beautiful, and captures the feeling of the tropical islands with its ukulele infused melody and sounds of waves.
In conclusion, Pixar have once again made a film that anyone of any age can enjoy, with a strong a great message for the audience, let your emotions run free. Inside Out is going to be the blockbuster of this summer.
Score: 10/10 One of Pixar’s greatest, deeply moving and deeply profound, while still being funny as hell.